Ecuador: New massacre in Guayaquil prison leaves at least 68 prisoners dead and 25 injured | International

The body of a prisoner appears surrounded by police officers on the roof of the Litoral penitentiary the morning after riots broke out inside the prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Saturday, November 13, 2021.
The body of a prisoner appears surrounded by police officers on the roof of the Litoral penitentiary the morning after riots broke out inside the prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Saturday, November 13, 2021.Jose Sanchez (AP)

Another violent dawn in the Guayaquil Penitentiary leaves a scene of horror in an Ecuador shocked by insecurity and a balance of at least 68 dead prisoners. As just two months ago, a clash between gangs inside the largest prison in the country has ended with dozens of bodies dismembered or cremated. According to witnesses and information gathered by local reporters, the shots began to be heard in neighboring towns on Friday night but no authority has ruled on the new massacre until late Saturday morning.

The preliminary report, on Saturday morning, spoke of 58 victims, all inmates, but warned that the deceased could be many more. In the afternoon, the State Attorney General’s Office said that the figure rose to 68 dead and 25 injured, and announced the opening of an investigation into the events. In a press conference, the governor of the province of Guayas, Pablo Arosemena, described the situation of “savagery and inhumanity” and related it to a power struggle between gangs that wanted to “subdue” the prisoners in ward 2. ” There was no leader of the gang that is in that ward, because days ago he had been released by a judge after serving 60% of his sentence, “explained Arosemena. “They wanted to besiege them, corner them, make a total massacre.” 700 inmates coexist in that pavilion.

It all started at sunset on Friday, according to the general commander of the Police, Tanya Varela. The police received an alert for detonations – shots – and entered to control the outbreak of violence. They left there because “the conditions were adverse all night.” The prisoners carried long and short weapons and even explosives. “They were not the conditions for an intervention and other strategies were sought.” The inmates of three entire wards roamed freely and attempts were made to disperse them with tear gas. “At 2.20 in the morning, the police made the decision to enter, until 7, and he is still there. It is possible that new actions could be generated ”.

During the all-night hunt, inmates broadcast live from their mobile phones via Facebook to show what was happening and plead with the government for help. There was no light and shots rang out constantly. They called and yelled at each other. They pointed to a police drone that was illuminating some. Governor Arosemena said that the attackers in pavilion 2 tried to open a hole in the wall with dynamite because they could not enter through the door. “They burned mattresses to make them come out with the toxic smoke. They did not limit themselves when trying to bend them. “

It is an episode similar to the confrontation between criminal gangs at the end of September, which claimed 119 lives that appeared as the police entered the prison to try to regain control block by block. It has been the most serious incident in the Ecuadorian prison system and motivated President Guillermo Lasso to declare a state of emergency in all the country’s prisons.

The aggressive coexistence within the prisons detonated in the Government of Lenín Moreno, prior to the current one, which decreed a first state of exception in June 2019 after a series of three riots that, then, scandalized the country due to its harshness. There were 10 dead. The situation has now exploded, with Guillermo Lasso as president, who accumulates three serious confrontations between inmates. The first in July, with 22 deaths; the second, in September, with 119; and that of this Friday, whose dimension is yet to be seen.

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“We are fighting against drug trafficking, against criminal gangs that fight for the territory to distribute drugs,” said the governor of Guayas as an explanation for the increase in violence. “Fighting drug trafficking is very hard and when there is action, there are consequences.”

There are barely two weeks until the exception period ends and since then the deaths of prisoners have not stopped. The last serious report spoke of seven hanged inmates.

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