Ecuador: 15 officers injured while trying to take over prison

QUITO (HPD) — The prisoners of the Penitenciaría del Litoral, the most violent in Ecuador, received hundreds of police and military personnel who entered the prison on Thursday with shots and grenades to try to retake control of the facilities and transfer a new group of 417 inmates.

The confrontation of the prisoners against the uniformed men left a balance between the latter of 15 wounded, one day after the Ecuadorian government decided to relocate 1,000 inmates to other prisons.

The director of the National Service for Persons Deprived of Liberty, Guillermo Rodríguez, confirmed in statements to the press that 15 uniformed officers were injured during entry to that prison -270 kilometers southwest of the capital-, for which 2,600 were deployed. between police and military. During the afternoon and night of Tuesday, clashes between prisoners left two inmates dead and six wounded.

The official in charge of the penitentiary system added that the relocation of inmates has the ultimate purpose of improving infrastructure, as well as “reducing overcrowding and thereby dignifying and generating a new rehabilitation process.”

President Guillermo Lasso added a nuance when referring to the intervention of the largest prison in the country and the transfer of “the leaders” of the gangs that operate inside the prisons. “This government does not bow down to narco-terrorists,” he defended in a message from his Twitter account, accompanied by two photos showing a large group of prisoners lying face down on the ground.

The transfer of 1,002 inmates from two wings of that prison began on Monday, which during the early hours of Tuesday unleashed about 20 attacks with bullets and explosives against police officers and facilities of that institution to pressure the government so that they are not relocated. The clashes ended with five officers and one civilian killed, all as a result of the shooting.

Given this, the president decreed a new state of exception, the sixth since his government began in May 2021. The declaration includes a curfew from 9:00 p.m. until dawn and the limitation of fundamental rights and is in force in the provinces of Guayas and Esmeraldas, epicenter of the actions allegedly perpetrated by criminal organizations.

The transfer of prisoners is a response of the prison system to overcrowding in the prison, according to the explanation of the Service, which indicated that the facilities of two pavilions will be remodeled and, if necessary, demolished.

This entity that manages Ecuadorian prisons specified that in the Penitentiary of the Coast, where the largest massacres among prisoners have been perpetrated in the last two years, there were 5,246 detainees until the weekend and that now, after the transfer, 4,244 inmates remained.

The explosive attacks caused the early closure of commercial activity and the suspension of face-to-face classes in some cities, including Guayaquil and neighboring Durán.

For two years, Ecuador’s state prisons have become the scene of bloody clashes between rival groups of prisoners, some related to Colombian and Mexican cartels that are vying for control of routes and territories for drug distribution nationally and internationally.

According to figures from the Service, last year 316 inmates were killed by their colleagues. So far this year there have been 106 fatalities.

Ecuador’s prison system is designed for about 30,000 people but as of the end of September there were some 35,000 inmates in the 53 state prisons.

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