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Ecuadorian President declares state of emergency after more than 100 dead in prison battle


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The death toll in bloody clashes between rival gangs in an Ecuadorian prison has exceeded 100, with 52 others injured, the government prison authority said on Wednesday as soldiers surrounded the facility, one of many overcrowded prisons. and understaffed in the country.

Inmates went to war armed with guns and grenades at the Guayaquil prison complex on Tuesday: a clash between inmates believed to be linked to Mexican drug gangs, primarily the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.

Soldiers and a tank guarded the compound on Wednesday as mounted police patrolling the perimeter were confronted with worried family members of the men locked inside.

“We want information because we don’t know anything about our families, our sons,” said a woman, who refused to give her name. “I have my son there.”

Tuesday’s violence was the latest in a series of bloody prison clashes that have claimed the lives of around 180 inmates in Ecuador so far this year.

The SNAI prison administration said in a tweet that the deaths of “over 100” prisoners had been confirmed, with 52 others injured.

At least six were beheaded, the national prosecutor’s office said earlier today, adding that two police officers were injured during the operation to regain control of the prison.

The officers were attacked by armed detainees.

President Guillermo Lasso announced on Twitter that he was declaring a “state of emergency”, which will allow him to suspend his rights and use the police to restore calm.

Lasso said he would head a security committee in Guayaquil to monitor the emergency, but would also ensure “human rights protection for everyone involved.”

A police charge on the prison prevented “further deaths,” Guayaquil City Police Chief Fausto Buenano said.

Ecuador’s prison system has become a battleground for thousands of prisoners linked to powerful Mexican drug gangs.

On February 23, simultaneous riots in four prisons, including Guayaquil, left 79 people dead, many of them beheaded.

‘A war’

Last week, police confiscated two pistols, a revolver, some 500 rounds, a hand grenade, several knives, two sticks of dynamite and homemade explosives from one of the city’s prisons.

Two weeks ago, Guayaquil’s No. 4 Prison was attacked by drones as part of a “war between international cartels,” prison authorities said. There were no casualties in this attack.

“There has been a prison crisis since 2010, with an average of 25 homicides per year, but it accelerated considerably from 2017 to the peak of this year,” Ecuadorian security expert Fernando Carrion told AFP. .

Ecuador’s prison system has 65 facilities designed for around 30,000 inmates, but housing an actual population of 39,000 inmates. There are chronic staff shortages.

The country’s human rights ombudsperson said there were 103 murders in prisons in 2020, with corruption allowing inmates to bring in arms and ammunition.

Located between Colombia and Peru, the world’s main cocaine producers, Ecuador is a key transit for drug shipments to the United States and Europe.

Guayaquil is the main port city of Ecuador.

Between January and August this year, Ecuadorian authorities seized around 116 tonnes of drugs, mostly cocaine, up from 128 tonnes in 2020.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the ongoing violence in Ecuadorian prisons.