Police Storm Ecuador Prison Where More Than 100 Inmates Died

QUITO, Ecuador — A whole lot of cops have entered an Ecuadorean jail the place greater than 100 inmates died this week, officials said early Thursday, with officers searching for to take again management of the penitentiary.

The announcement follows the president’s declaration of a state of emergency that might give army personnel management of the services and put inmates in strict lockdown.

The riot on the Coastal Penitentiary, a crowded jail on the outskirts of Guayaquil, started Tuesday morning in two maximum-security pavilions and led to 116 deaths and about 80 accidents, all involving inmates, President Guillermo Lasso mentioned late Wednesday.

“We’re working to keep away from additional deaths,” mentioned Mr. Lasso, who referred to as the episode “sorrowful.” The emergency steps will bar inmates within the giant facility, which has almost 10,000 inmates, from gathering and socializing, he mentioned, and topic their correspondence to assessment.

On Twitter, the Ecuadorean police mentioned that no less than two officers had died within the clashes, and that officers had uncovered explosives and “extra proof” as soon as they entered the power.

It has been a lethal yr in Ecuador’s prisons. In all, gang wars behind bars have claimed greater than 200 lives in 2021 — a quantity that has risen sharply lately. As an illustration, in 2018, there have been solely 15 such deaths.

Legal gangs with ties to worldwide drug cartels have more and more vied for management of prisons the place their most harmful members and leaders are confined — half of a bigger wrestle to regulate the nation’s profitable drug commerce.

Ecuador doesn’t develop loads of coca leaf, however its neighbors, Colombia and Peru, are two of the world’s largest producers. Colombian cocaine traffickers and guerrillas have lengthy used Ecuador’s territory for operations, and lately have begun diverting a rising share of exports to neighboring international locations.

Earlier than this week’s conflict, the deadliest confrontation between gangs had been in February, when coordinated uprisings occurred in three of probably the most violent prisons within the nation, leaving almost 80 inmates lifeless. Ugly footage and pictures surfaced on social media, displaying mutilated torsos and rivals holding their enemies’ heads.

The jail system is now in deep disaster, many say, a results of underfunding and an extra of inmates awaiting sentencing. More and more, the guards are seen as irrelevant because the gangs battle for management.

In Wednesday’s information convention, Fausto Cobo, previously in control of the penitentiary system and now head of the Intelligence Bureau, mentioned that the scenario within the Ecuadorean prisons was greater than a penitentiary difficulty.

“It is a risk towards the state,” he mentioned, “by an influence equal or larger to the state’s.”

Julie Turkewitz contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia.

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