Ecuador declares state of emergency in prisons amid fatal attacks | Prison News


President Guillermo Lasso orders military and police to take control of Ecuador’s prison system after wave of violence.

Ecuador has declared a state of emergency across the country’s prison system, following a fresh spate of violence and deadly clashes between rival groups.

President Guillermo Lasso announced the measure on Tuesday, ordering police and military forces to assert control over the South American nation’s prisons for a period of 60 days.

“With effort, commitment and continuous work, we will move forward and recover the peace that organised crime has taken from us,” Lasso said in a Twitter post. “We have to be more united than ever to win this battle.”

The state of emergency is the second that Lasso has declared in the last 24 hours, as Ecuador grapples with a wave of violent crime that has left many residents feeling unnerved.

Lasso had declared a state of emergency on Monday in the provinces of Los Rios and Manabi, as well as in the city of Duran, after the mayor of Manta, a port city about 400km (250 miles) southwest of the capital of Quito, was shot and killed.

Meanwhile, in the city of Guayaquil, clashes between rival gangs inside Litoral prison – the largest prison in the country – at the weekend initially left at least six people dead and 11 others injured. Gunshots and explosions were heard by residents in the area.

On Tuesday, approximately 2,700 soldiers stormed the facility to “retake control”, as officials said the death toll from the violence rose to 18 people.

The prosecutor’s office said “the deaths of 18 prisoners is confirmed”, while 11 people including a policeman were injured in the ongoing confrontation.

The armed forces, meanwhile, said troops and police entered the prison on Tuesday morning to restore order and search for arms, ammunition, explosives and other illegal items used in running battles.

In 13 other Ecuadorian prisons, incarcerated people took nearly 100 guards hostage in recent days and have launched hunger strikes, demanding improvements to sanitation and food, among other things.

Conditions in Ecuador’s prison system have long drawn concern from human rights groups.

Litoral prison can hold 9,500 people, but it has exceeded that capacity by about 3,000 during the first quarter of this year.

It is considered the most dangerous detention facility in Ecuador, and fighting between rival gangs in 2021 killed 119 incarcerated people.

During his time in office, Lasso has regularly declared states of emergency in response to violence within prisons across the country.

Military intervention in the prisons will continue until control has been retaken and there is no threat to incarcerated people or officials, the government said on Tuesday.

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