Police resumed control of Guayaquil prison in southwest Ecuador on Thursday (September 30th), where at least 118 inmates have died in clashes since Tuesday, the worst massacre in Latin American prison history. . Six of them were beheaded, and the violence also left 86 injured, the judicial authorities said.
“Everything is calm, the detainees are in their cells. They did not take over the rooms ”, said Police Commander Tannya Varela, speaking to the press in the Guayaquil penitentiary complex after an operation involving 900 police officers, two of whom were injured. Military tanks and soldiers have been stationed around the prison, where hundreds of family members of detainees await in anguish for news of their loved ones.
According to local news site Primicias, the clashes began when prisoners in one gang celebrated the birthday of one of their leaders and boasted of controlling the prison, sparking fury from rival organizations in the others. wings of the building. According to the prosecution, “The struggle for power within the prison and the intention of the authorities to transfer the heads of criminal organizations to other prisons in the country were the triggers”.
Families in distress
“It’s very difficult, there are a lot of dead, a lot of injured, I don’t know if my son is alive or not”Juana Pinto, who is anxiously awaiting the fate of her imprisoned son, told AFP. “For us parents, it’s horrible (…) we don’t know what to do, we feel powerless”said Cecilia Quiroz, mother of another detainee, who calls for “Government aid”.
President Guillermo Lasso visited Guayaquil on Wednesday after having “Declared a state of emergency throughout the prison system at the national level”. Overcrowded Ecuadorian prisons have for months been the scene of recurrent violence between criminal groups linked to drug trafficking. This state of emergency, scheduled for 60 days and including the army’s participation in operations, aims to “Restore and maintain order” in all the prisons of the country and to guarantee the security “Prisoners, prison staff and members of the national police”. He ordered the provisional suspension of several prisoners’ rights, such as that of assembly.
The scorned state
This violence between rival drug trafficking gangs linked to the formidable Mexican cartels of Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generacion bring to 236 the number of detainees killed since the beginning of the year. In February, 79 prisoners were killed in simultaneous riots in four prisons in three cities, including Guayaquil. In 2020, the death toll was 103.
For the director of the Government’s Strategic Intelligence Center, Fausto Cobo, these massacres of prisoners are “A threat to the state”, because their managers have “A power equal or superior to that of the State itself”. Ecuador’s prison system has nearly 65 prisons and some 39,000 prisoners, half of whom are awaiting conviction, with a capacity of around 30,000 places, and 1,500 guards (one for 26 prisoners), according to official figures.