State of emergency declared in Ecuador after deadly prion riots break out

Soldiers patrolled the perimiter of the Sierra Centro Norte prison in Latacunga, Ecuador, following deadly riots in two other prisons © Rodrigo Buendia, AFP

Ecuador announced a state of emergency in its prison system on Thursday after disturbances in two prisons left 22 people dead and 57 injured.

In Ecuador's jails, President Guillermo Lasso issued an order to "mobilize all necessary human and economic resources to re-establish order."

The military would be in command of the jail perimeter and entry, while police officers would be in charge of the interior, according to Lasso.

Indoor security was previously handled by people who had been trained as prison guards.

All activities “that could put the penitentiary population and administrative personnel in jeopardy” were previously halted by prison officials.

Outside visits to some jails have been canceled.

Eight police officers were among those injured in the disturbances at jails in Guayas, in southwestern Ecuador, and Cotopaxi, in the country's center. A previous count had put the death toll at 21.

According to government minister Alexandra Vela, fourteen detainees died at Cotopaxi, including one who died in hospital, and five police officers were injured.

In Guayas, eight inmates died and three police officers were injured.

According to Vela, a police officer was raped amid the commotion and unrest.

In February, the same two penitentiaries were at the center of a wave of rioting. 79 inmates were killed in a single day in fights between rival gangs competing for power.

Inmates were decapitated and burned alive during those disturbances, exposing the might of prison gangs and shocking the South American nation.

Overcrowding is a serious problem.

During the riots, “high-caliber firearms” and explosives were utilized, according to Cotopaxi Governor Oswaldo Coronel, “causing a large amount of destruction inside” the prisons.

Several Cotopaxi detainees were also able to flee before morning. Police have not revealed how many escaped, but they have said that 78 have been apprehended.

President Lasso, who took office in May, replaced the head of the SNAI prisons management organization with a reserve army colonel after firing him.

Ecuador's jail system, which has around 60 institutions built to hold 29,000 offenders, is overcrowded and understaffed.

According to analysts, almost 38,000 detainees are guarded by 1,500 guards, a deficiency of about 2,500.

According to Ecuador's human rights ombudsman, 103 people were killed in Ecuadorian jails in 2020.

Former President Lenin Moreno imposed a state of emergency multiple times in an attempt to quell the violence, notably for three months in 2020.

Ecuador has employed alternative penalties for minor offenses to ease its prison population since the coronavirus outbreak began, reducing overcrowding from 42 percent to 30 percent.

Publish : 2021-07-23 10:10:00

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