62 dead in Ecuador prison riots, dozens injured

Members of the Ecuadorian Marine Force guard a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on February 23, 2021 [Marcos Pin Mendez/AFP]
Members of the Ecuadorian Marine Force guard a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador [Marcos Pin Mendez/AFP]

At least 62 people have been killed and dozens more injured in three separate prison riots in Ecuador, authorities said on Tuesday. Officials blamed the riots at detention facilities in the cities of Guayaquil, Cuenca and Latacunga on disputes between rival gangs.

Local media reported prisoners were killed in gun and knife attacks. “These were two groups vying for criminal leadership within the detention centres,” said Edmundo Moncayo, the director of Ecuador’s prison agency. Moncayo said at least 62 deaths had been reported so far. Authorities have been able “to control and restore order within the detention centres” with the help of an additional 800 police officers, he added. Earlier on Tuesday, Police General Commander Patricio Carrillo said on Twitter the riots involved high-security prisoners. The riots reportedly erupted on Monday night after prisoners took prison guards hostage.

Local media reported that several ambulances were seen leaving the jails, as news of the riots was made public, dozens of prisoners’ relatives gathered outside the facilities to get more information on what was happening, local media said. Images and videos circulating on social media showed inmates gathered on a prison rooftop with police officers on motorcycles and in patrol cars surrounding the building.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno tweeted  that gangs had carried out “simultaneous acts of violence in several prisons in the country”. He said police, in coordination with Minister of Government Patricio Pazmino Castillo, were working to regain control of the prisons.

The government said some police officers were wounded, without giving further details. Prison officials managed to evacuate during the riots. Prison riots and disputes between rival gangs frequently occur in Ecuador. Five inmates were killed in a brawl in a prison in Latacunga in December.

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