Crime & Justice

Ecuador moves to ease prison overcrowding after deadly riot

Guayaquil/Quito, Oct 1 (EFE).- The Ecuadorian government said Friday that it is taking steps to reduce the severe overcrowding in the country’s prisons after 118 inmates died in armed clashes inside a penitentiary in Guayaquil.

Interior Minister Alexandra Vela told a press conference in Quito that authorities were preparing to issue pardons and commutations to some 2,000 elderly, disabled and terminally ill inmates.

The SNAI prisons service will also begin repatriating jailed foreign nationals to their respective homelands, she said, adding that processing was already under way for 82 of those inmates.

The prison in Guayaquil, which is 62 percent over its official capacity, is to be renovated and expanded, the minister said.

Amid indignation of inmates’ families who remain without information on the fate of their loved ones three days after the bloodbath, Vela said that 41 victims have been positively identified and 21 bodies have been turned over to relatives.

The process of identification has been hampered by a lack of data about which prisoners were held in Cellblock 5, where most of the bodies were found.

A complete list of fatalities will be released to the media as soon as it is available, Vela said.

But the roughly 300 people waiting outside the morgue in Guayaquil for news about family members remained unsatisfied with authorities’ handling of the situation.

“Let them help us with a list of the live (inmates), don’t keep us here with so much uncertainty,” Katty Banchon, whose nephew was in Cellblock 5, said to Efe at the morgue.

“We don’t know what happened to them, if they are alive or dead. We don’t know anything,” she said.

Billy Navarrete, a member of the Human Rights Committee in Guayas province, of which Guayaquil is the capital, denounced the prison administration as incompetent.

“The official version from the penitentiary indicated they they don’t know the number of identity of those who inhabit the cellblocks,” he said to Efe. “That is very serious, because how do you ensure a process of rehabilitation if you don’t know the people.”

Ecuador’s armed forces took charge of the Guayaquil prison on Thursday on the orders of President Guillermo Lasso, who declared a 60-day state of emergency in the penal system.

More than 3,600 troops and police have been deployed in prisons nationwide in the last 48 hours. EFE db-cb-elb/dr

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