In Ecuador, state of emergency in prisons after the worst prison massacre in the country

In Latin America, prison massacres follow one another and worsen. Tuesday, September 28, it was the Littoral prison, in the Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil, which was the scene of unspeakable violence. At least 118 detainees have died in clashes, and 86 have been injured, including six seriously, according to a count posted on Twitter Thursday by the Ombudsman of Ecuador, a public human rights body. The day before, the president, Guillermo Lasso, had attributed this tragedy, the worst massacre in prison history in Latin America, “To clashes between gangs”, while specifying that no guardian “Nor any civilian” were not among the victims.

“It is lamentable that prisons become a land of power disputes between gangs of delinquents”, added the head of state, before declaring a state of emergency for sixty days throughout the country’s prison system. Thursday evening, in front of the prison of Guayaquil, located in the southwest of Ecuador, crying women were still waiting for news of their sons or their companions. All the bodies have not yet been identified. According to the authorities, some victims are “Excruciatingly mutilated”. Five of them were reportedly found beheaded.

This new mutiny, the most serious in the history of the country, brings to more than 200 the number of prisoners murdered since the beginning of the year. On February 23, a mutiny affected four prisons simultaneously and resulted in the deaths of 79 inmates.

Drug trafficking

Pablo Arosemena, governor of the province of Guayas, where the Littoral prison is located, explained that 400 police officers were mobilized on Tuesday to put down the uprising. They were over 900 on Thursday. It was only at the end of the morning that the prison administration of the National Service for the Integral Care of Adults Deprived of Liberty and Adolescents (SNAI) announced that it had regained “total control” of the penitentiary center.

Drug trafficking and corruption, prison overcrowding, lack of resources, neglect of public authorities: the causes of prison violence and its increase are the same everywhere, from Brazil to Honduras, via Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. Between two mutinies, prisons disappear from the agenda of the governors: the detainees are not valued voters, nor their living conditions a promising electoral issue. Scheduled for 30,000 prisoners, the Ecuadorian penitentiary system now accommodates nearly 40,000.

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