Crime & Justice

18 Killed as gangs fight for control of Ecuadorian prison

Quito, Jul 25 (EFE).- Days of fighting between rival gangs inside Ecuador’s largest prison have left 18 inmates dead, the Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday.

“In addition, 11 people (including a police office) were injured” in the violence at Litoral prison in the Pacific coast city of Guayaquil, the AG Office said on Twitter.

The Interior Ministry said that 2,700 members of the National Police and armed forces were deployed to Litoral after President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in the nation’s prison system.

The presence of security forces allowed the AG Office and the medical examiner to begin collecting evidence and removing bodies.

While Lasso’s staff said on Twitter that the police and troops had established “total control” over Litoral prison, Interior Minister Juan Zapata said that the forces had pacified three cellblocks.

The mayhem, which erupted last Saturday, involved inmates affiliated with the Los Tiguerones and Los Lobos gangs and followed the breakdown of a truce between the groups, officials said.

Inmates in 12 other prisons began a hunger strike to protest conditions behind bars and in five of those penitentiaries, detainees took guards and other staff members hostage.

The prison service (SNAI) said earlier this week that a total of 96 employees were being held, but reported Tuesday that 131 guards and other staff had been liberated.

The military said Tuesday that troops securing a prison in the northern coastal city of Esmeraldas prevented three people from smuggling 420 rounds of ammunition into the facility.

Some 470 inmates have died in violent incidents inside Ecuador’s prisons since 2020 and the system as a whole suffers from severe overcrowding.

Gangland violence is not limited to the prisons and Ecuadorian coastal cities have also been rocked by battles among organized crime factions seeking control of drug trafficking channels.

Though Ecuador is not a drug-producing country, cocaine from Colombia and Peru travels to North American and Europe via Ecuadorian ports.

EFE sm/dr

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