Sixty-two inmates have died in riots in prisons in three cities in Ecuador following fighting between rival gangs and an escape attempt, authorities said on Tuesday. Prisons director Edmundo Moncayo told a press conference that 800 police stations had helped regain control of the facilities. Hundreds of officers from tactical units had been deployed since the clashes erupted on Monday evening.
Moncayo said two groups were trying to gain “criminal leadership in detention centers” and the clashes were precipitated by a search for weapons carried out by police on Monday.
Photographs and videos on social media show detainees presumed beheaded and dismembered amid pools of blood.
Deadly prison riots have occurred relatively frequently in recent years in Ecuador, whose prisons were designed for some 27,000 inmates but house around 38,000.
President Lenín Moreno tweeted that he had ordered the Defense Ministry “to exercise strict control over weapons, ammunition and explosives in the outer perimeters of prisons” following the riots this week.
Moncayo said 33 died in Cuenca prison in southern Ecuador, 21 in the city of Guayaquil on the Pacific coast and eight in the central city of Latacunga.
Moncayo said nearly 70% of the country’s prison population live in the centers where the unrest took place.
Government Minister Patricio Pazmiño sent a tweet accusing “the concerted action of criminal organizations to generate violence in the country’s prisons”, but added: “We are managing actions to regain control.”
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