At least 12 prisoners died in gunfights that erupted Friday in a prison in the Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil, where they found this week six inmates were hanged and three guards were killed.
The investigative body assured on Twitter that it is progressing in the investigation to “identify those responsible for the death of 12 people deprived of their liberty, inside the coastal penitentiary”.
News agency correspondents on Friday AFP extension they heard shots inside that prison and recorded aerial images showing five bodies lying on the floor of the penitentiary, site of the worst prison massacres registered in Ecuador since February 2021.
Official information indicates that in confrontations with “firearms” prisoners of four of the twelve pavilions that make up the prison.
Late at night, police and military regained control of the prison, which houses about 6,800 people and is part of a large prison complex in Guayaquil.
“We are not unaware that it exists and we are here the worst moment of crisis of violence in the countryDefense Minister Juan Zapata said this in an interview with Teleamazonas on Friday.
Drug gangs contest the drug business with blood and fire and use prisons as operations centers. Violence inside and outside prisons does not subside.
According to Zapata, Ecuador has “more than 13 organized crime groups (GDO)” linked to Mexican cartels like that of Sinaloa.
Comparison of drug traffickers leaves more than 420 inmates dead since 2021. In September of that year, some 120 inmates died at the Guayas 1 detention center, in Ecuador’s largest prison massacre and one of the bloodiest in Latin America.
And fear prevails in the streets: murders, shootings, attacks, extortion, kidnappings. The homicide rate almost doubled between 2021 and 2022rising from 14 to 25 for every 100,000 inhabitants, according to the authorities.
Thus Ecuador closes a violent week. At the same prison, authorities found six inmates hanged in their cells on Wednesday and three prison guards were murdered by hitmen the next day at a nearby restaurant.
A committee of relatives of the inmates said on Twitter on Friday that “a new massacre has been felt for weeks” in the so-called Guayas 1 penitentiary. Relatives of the prisoners shouted at the authorities “take action to avoid further deaths“.
In the midst of the spiral of violence that is affecting Ecuador, on Tuesday about thirty armed men opened fire on the population in an artisanal fishing port and killed nine people in the town of Esmeraldas (north), near the border with Colombia.
“What happened to Esmeraldas are no longer acts of common crime, they are already terrorist acts“said Minister Zapata.
Right-wing President Guillermo Lasso’s government is waging a war against organized crime and drug trafficking, from which it has confiscated more than 450 tons of drugsmainly cocaine, since he took power in May 2021.
Ecuador is located between Colombia and Peru, the world’s largest producers of cocaine.
Faced with the high level of insecurity in the country, Lasso decreed constant states of exception, with curfew and the deployment of soldiers in the square.
Currently three coastal provinces and three cities, including Guayaquil, are under emergency.
As a measure to combat violence, the Armed Forces propose it criminals are treated like terrorists.
“We have lethal weapons, war tanks, war planes (…) if we have to use them against criminals, we will do it with full weight,” said Army General Alexander Levoyer, commander of the Joint Task Force (police and military) in Esmeraldas.
“They will not win this war“, underlined the military leader in statements broadcast on Friday by the Ecuavisa channel.
According to the first prison census carried out last year, there are around 31,000 inmates in Ecuador in 36 prisons that have a capacity of 30,000.
In 2021, overcrowding increased, with 39,000 inmates, but in the face of the massacres, the government granted pardons and benefits to decongest prisons.
The last clash between prisoners took place on April 5 in the La Roca prison in Guayaquil, with three dead and one injured. This penitentiary is part of the same complex where the massacre took place on Friday.
Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.