New escalation of violence highlights Ecuador's prison crisis

Prison riots in Ecuadorian jails reach 156 deaths so far this year 2021
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The serious crisis in Ecuador's prisons has once again manifested itself with the third episode of violence in the Guayaquil prison, the former Penitenciaría del Litoral. Two criminal gangs started a confrontation for the control of the penitentiary centre, which ended with the lives of 30 people and at least 49 injured.

According to police sources, the fight between the groups of prisoners was over the control of cellblock five. Nineteen dead were found there, five of whom had been decapitated. "They had been hit by firearms projectiles and grenades," said police commander Fausto Buenaño.

The governor of the province of Guayas, Pablo Arosemena, confirmed that the "dispute between gangs" had not been quelled until the intervention of 400 police officers. "The Government of Encuentro is recovering the sovereignty of the prisons and security for the province," the governor said

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The police managed to enter the prison and take control of the largest prison in the country, after which, in collaboration with the National Service of Integral Attention to Adults Deprived of Liberty and Adolescent Offenders (SNAI), they began a thorough search of all the wards, according to the newspaper El País.

The event coincided with the appointment of Bolívar Fernando Garzón as the new head of prison management, replacing Fausto Cobo, who will take charge of the Strategic Intelligence Centre. It was Fausto who pointed out that the conflicts in the prisons were mostly due to clashes between drug cartels to maintain control of their wards, as reported by 20 Minutos.

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 Violence continues in Ecuadorian prisons

This act of violence is in addition to the one that occurred a fortnight ago in prison number 4 in Guayaquil, where a drone attack took place as a result of "a war between international cartels", but, according to the SNAI, there were no fatalities.

During the months of February and July, other clashes between prisoners resulted in 79 and 22 victims respectively, which together with the human losses in this last confrontation brings the total number of deaths so far this year to 156.

Faced with this situation, the country's president, Guillermo Lasso, announced last month that he would allocate 75 million dollars over the next four years to try to resolve the situation.

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The prison crisis in Ecuador began with murders in and outside prison in 2018. It was in 2019 when the former president, Lenín Moreno, was forced to declare a state of emergency in the prison system because of growing uncontrollable riots due to lack of resources and security in the centres.

The escalation continued during 2020, although the deaths became more violent, culminating in the loss of 51 people during 2021, a figure that has already tripled so far in 2021.

Latin America Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra