Crime & Justice

Hostage guards released and “order restored” in Ecuador’s prisons

Quito, Sept 1 (EFE).- Fifty prison guards and seven police officers who were taken hostage during the riots that began on Wednesday in Ecuador’s prisons have been released.

“Order is being restored in the prisons,” the National Service for Comprehensive Care of Adults Deprived of their Liberty and Juvenile Offenders said in an official statement.

Earlier on Thursday, Interior Minister Juan Zapata said the hostages were all taken in the Turi prison in the city of Cuenca, in the southern Andean region of the country.

However, the national prison agency said the hostages were taken in six prisons where there had been riots.

On Thursday night the hostages held in the Cuenca prison, the largest involved in the riot, were released, according to local media. Authorities did not confirm it until Friday afternoon.

On Friday morning, the Cuenca prison appeared to be in normal condition, with police stationed on its perimeter and without the presence of the 400 military personnel who had been there during the previous two days, as EFE was able to observe.

Other prisons where disturbances were reported included Machala and Azogues, and a detention center in Quito, where juveniles tried to riot and started a fire that burned one of the center’s sectors.

The riots began Wednesday as a response by the Los Lobos gang to a police and military intervention at the Latacunga prison in Cotopaxi province to confiscate weapons and, apparently, also to protest a series of prisoner transfers.

The intervention in Latacunga was part of a string of operations carried out by the police and armed forces in recent weeks to undermine the criminal gangs control over the prisons, which have led to the murder of more than 400 inmates in a series of prison massacres since 2020.

Parallel to the riots, there have been at least five car bombs and other explosions in different parts of the country, including two in the capital Quito, where vehicles packed with explosives detonated in front of buildings linked to the Penitentiary Department.

This situation of prison violence has also spilled over into the streets, causing the country to go from 5.8 to 25.32 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in five years, the highest figure in its history.

Ecuador has also seen a series of high-profile assassinations of politicians, judges and prosecutors, including presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. EFE fgg/ics

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