Ecuador: 68 inmates killed and 25 injured in latest prison massacre

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At least 68 prisoners were killed and 25 injured in a prison in the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador after bloodshed between rival gangs erupted on Friday evening, the attorney general’s office said on Saturday.

The latest massacre took place in Litoral Penitentiary, the same prison where at least 119 inmates lost their lives just over a month earlier in the country’s deadliest prison riot.

This is the latest bloodshed in a wave of prison violence in Ecuador this year, which brings the death toll to more than 280 inmates. The scale and savagery of the violence between rival drug trafficking gangs vying for prison control has stunned the country.

The latest carnage was no exception. Videos on social media allegedly posted by inmates overnight showed victims beaten and burned alive in a prison yard.

Other videos showed inmates begging for help to stop the violence as gunshots and explosions rang out in the background. The Guardian could not independently verify the origin of the videos.

The epidemic was triggered by a power vacuum after the release of a gang leader, according to Pablo Arosemena, the governor of Guayas province where Guayaquil is located. “Other cell blocks with other groups wanted to subdue them, get inside and have a total slaughter,” he said at a press conference on Saturday.

The President of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, took Twitter Saturday to castigate the judges. He accused them of restricting the state’s ability to tackle violence by limiting a 60-day state of emergency in the prison system – decreed in late September – which aimed to free up funding and allow increased controls with greater control. military assistance.

“The fundamental duty of the state is to guarantee the lives of citizens, without discrimination. It’s a basic human right, ”Lasso tweeted. “Sadly, today this work is made impossible by court rulings that place exaggerated restrictions on coordination between state security forces in the defense of life. They don’t allow us to defend life, ”he said.

Lasso, a 65-year-old former banker, said the state needed “constitutional tools to protect the population, restore order in prisons and fight mafias who profit from the chaos.”

Colonel Mario Pazmiño, Ecuador’s former director of military intelligence, said the latest violence demonstrated the government was unable to “combat the threat that has long been out of control”.

The violence increased when local criminal gangs began working for rival Mexican drug cartels Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation, he added. “The level of corruption is so high that the prison staff and officers are totally corrupt and the prisoners run the prison,” Pazmiño added. “It’s total chaos. “

The situation was made worse by an “inoperative justice system” which meant that many prisoners were jailed before being sentenced, Pazmiño said, leading to overcrowding and the mixing of very dangerous criminals with prisoners jailed for suspected theft or consumption of drugs. drug.

A total of 11 people were found hanged in the same prison in October. Authorities said they may have been suicides.

Police operations since the declaration of a state of emergency – particularly in the Litoral penitentiary – have uncovered caches of firearms, grenades, knives, ammunition, cell phones and drugs .



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