Prison Riot Death Toll Tops 100 as Ecuador Decrees Emergency
(Bloomberg) -- President Guillermo Lasso declared the prison system under emergency for the second time since he took power in May after gang violence claimed the lives of 116 inmates at a Guayaquil penitentiary in one of the bloodiest jail riots in the history of Latin America.
“This fight between organized criminal groups seeking internal power is a tremendous tragedy,” said Bolivar Garzon, the director of the prison service, in a radio interview with Notimundo. Authorities attribute the violence to clashes among gangs fighting for drug business.
Police, who searched the prison for weapons a week ago, continued finding bodies after regaining control of the facility following Tuesday’s riot, Garzon said.
Lasso, who traveled to Guayaquil to discuss the security situation, said about 80 more inmates had been injured. A plan to modify prisons to improve security will start with the Guayaquil penitentiary, he said.
The president previously declared a prison emergency in July when a riot left 18 dead between the Guayaquil and Latacunga prisons.
Under the 60-day state of emergency, the government suspends prisoners’ rights to assembly and to privacy regarding their mail.
Lasso has earmarked close to $80 million to overhaul the prison system. In February, around 80 inmates were killed in simultaneous rioting in prisons in Latacunga, Guayaquil and the southern Andean city of Cuenca.
The riot is the third so far this year in a country where prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. Such violence isn’t unusual in Latin America as penitentiaries face budget constraints and have poorly trained guards. In one of the region’s bloodiest incidents, Brazilian police killed 111 inmates who were rioting at the Carandiru prison in Sao Paulo state in 1992, a massacre that triggered international uproar and an investigation by the United Nations.
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