Quito, Sep 30 (EFE).- A day after Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in the country’s penal system, military personnel carried out a search for weapons Thursday at the prison in the coastal city of Guayaquil where 116 inmates died this week in a battle between rival gangs.
The governor of Guayas province, whose capital is Guayaquil, said the troops were accompanied by police.
The operation was conducted “in the framework” of the state of emergency, Gov. Pablo Arosemena said in a message on social media.
More than 230 inmates have been killed in the country’s prisons so far this year and the Guayaquil penitentiary has accounted for most of the violent incidents.
Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and business capital, is also a hotbed of organized crime with more than 430 homicides reported through the end of last month.
The Guayas provincial government released photos showing hundreds of troops and police entering the prison before dawn.
The aim of the emergency declaration is to safeguard the rights and security of inmates and prison staff, the Lasso administration said Wednesday.
Ecuador’s armed forces and the national police will work with the SNAI prisons service “with the objective of carrying out the actions necessary to re-establish and maintain order,” the government said.
In the event of future major incidents inside prisons, the police and the military “will need to intervene urgently, within the existing constitutional and legal framework,” the emergency declaration said.
“It’s regrettable that the prisons are turned into territory for power disputes among criminal bands,” Lasso told a press conference in Guayaquil.
Analysts say the crisis in the prisons derives from events in 2018, when clashes between the military and well-armed criminal outfits on the border with Colombia exposed the presence of foreign drug cartels.
Ecuador is a transit country for shipments of Colombian and Peruvian cocaine to the United States and Europe. EFE