Ecuador prison riot leaves 44 dead, 108 on the run
The South American country's prison authority SNAI says it activated security protocols to contain the "disturbances to order."
Up to 44 inmates died on Monday in Ecuador's latest prison riot, and another 100 prisoners were able to escape, the public prosecutor reported.
Authorities claimed a fight broke out inside the Bellavista prison in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, in the middle of Ecuador, around 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Quito.
During the brawl, dozens of convicts attempted to flee. Police chief Fausto Salinas reported that 108 were missing after another 112 escaped prisoners were recaptured.
The South American country's prison authority SNAI said it has activated security protocols to contain the "disturbances to order."
Moreover, six gang leaders were transferred from Bellavista to two maximum-security prisons, the Interior Ministry said.
Initially, Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo declared that police were in control of the situation and that all escaped prisoners had been apprehended.
Inmates with facial injuries were transported to medical facilities by truck and ambulance, while family members of those jailed gathered at the prison seeking information, according to AFP reporters on the scene.
Before this one, around 350 convicts were slain in five separate prison riots since February 2021.
At least 20 convicts died within the El Turi prison in Cuenca, southern Ecuador, just last month.
President Guillermo Lasso argues that the problem inside the facilities is the same as the problem outside, where drug gangs compete for control of trafficking routes.
Rivalries among inmates can often turn violent, with some prisoners being slashed to death or beheaded with machetes.
"The majority of victims, if not almost 100 percent, were killed with knives and not guns," said Carrillo. "Their mutilated bodies were left where they were."
The convicts were murdered in their cells and common spaces, and then they used guns to try to flee the jail.
Authorities have stated that they will look for firearms and transfer gang leaders to another prison in Guayas Province.
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Even with increased spending in the prison system, the establishment of a commission to pacify institutions and new measures such as housing the most dangerous inmates in a single facility have not lessened the bloodshed.
Another issue is overcrowding, with 35,000 detainees in 65 institutions that only hold 30,000 inmates. The 1,200-capacity Bellavista prison houses 1,700 inmates.
Ecuador has also experienced an increase in street violence and drug trafficking, which the government has attempted to address by proclaiming a state of emergency in the three most impacted provinces: Guayas, Manabi, and Esmeraldas.
In 2021, the government confiscated a record 210 tons of drugs, and it has already seized 82 tons this year.