Quito, Feb 23 (efe-epa).- At least 62 people have died in simultaneous riots at three prisons in Ecuador Tuesday, according to the head of jails who attributed the incidents to at least two criminal gangs fighting for control.
At least 33 prisoners died in the jail of the city of Cuenca, another 21 in that of Guayaquil and eight in that of Cotopaxi, and there is an undetermined number of injured as investigations continue, the director of the National Service of Attention to People Deprived of Liberty (SNAI) Edmundo Moncayo said.
The dispute is probably due to a vacuum generated between gangs inside the prisons, after the December death of a former inmate who was believed to be leading a notorious criminal organization known as Los Choneros, he said at a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Quito.
José Luis Zambrano, alias “Rasquiña,” was assassinated in the coastal city of Manta shortly after his release from jail, and it is assumed his death would have awakened the ambition of other criminal gangs within the prisons.
“We expected an immediate reaction but the reaction has been delayed and is what has occurred today between two groups trying to find criminal leadership,” said Moncayo.
The riots took place simultaneously across the three prisons, which, according to the official, make up 70 percent of the incarcerated population of the entire country. Military reinforcements were brought in to help control the situation.
In his preliminary report, he also said that the riots occurred after a search carried out by prison personnel, who found firearms which presumably were intended to attack leaders of one of the gangs in the dispute.
The situation in the three prisons of Cuenca, Guayaquil and Cotopaxi, out of the 60 prisons in the country, has been brought under control and the Ecuadorian Prosecutor’s Office has begun investigations into the case.
In the morning, during the program “In Front of the President,” President Lenín Moreno indicated that he had authorized the “progressive use of force to ensure the safety of citizens who are in a state of seclusion.” EFE-EPA