Ecuador: Prisoners Hold Agents Inside Jail

QUITO (HPD) — A group of prison officers was held Tuesday by prisoners inside a prison in northern Ecuador, while shootings and explosions were reported in other cities to demand that some mafia leaders not be relocated to other prisons.

In Guayaquil, 270 kilometers southwest of the capital, shots were fired at police units and two officers were killed, police said. The attacks left no civilian casualties.

One of the inmates in Esmeraldas, hooded, assured that they will carry out the threat if the authorities transfer to that prison the leaders of the organized crime gangs from two pavilions of the Litoral Penitentiary, in Guayaquil.

The Minister of the Interior, Juan Zapata, assured in a press conference that the government will continue to apply measures to combat organized crime. “We are not going to let our guard down, they are not going to frighten us, least of all the police,” he said.

A video circulating on social networks showed dozens of prisoners in the Esmeraldas prison, 182 kilometers northwest of Quito, threatening to kill some eight handcuffed prison officers. The authorities confirmed the retention of the agents and indicated that negotiators are on the site to seek their release.

Meanwhile, the police commander, General Fausto Salinas, described the early morning attacks in both cities as “vile and cowardly” and indicated that human, tactical and logistical resources have been deployed with the support of the military throughout the country.

The former head of intelligence and the army and security analyst, Colonel Mario Pazmiño, told The Associated that Ecuador is entering a stage of violence like the one Colombia experienced with Pablo Escobar in the 1980s with a dispute between the state and the criminal organizations for the control of territorial spaces that are called sanctuaries.

He stressed that an example of this is the prisons, where the State lost control that remained in the power of criminal organizations that generate criminal governance. “Exactly the same occurs in some sectors of the borders where criminal organizations control the population.”

He added that these areas openly challenge the power of the State and that the population is under the “protection of criminal structures”, while the government continues without an adequate intelligence system, without a strategy and without clear actions to deal with the situation.

The government has not commented on the situation, but trucks with dozens of soldiers arrived at the Litoral Penitentiary in the early hours of the morning.

The National Service for Persons Deprived of Liberty published on its Twitter account that works and adaptations are underway to improve the conditions of that prison, for which it is necessary to relocate the inmates.

He specified that for this reason 200 prisoners have been transferred from the Litoral Penitentiary to other prisons in the country as part of an operation that allows “reducing overcrowding, protecting the security of the prison population.” He did not report whether there are criminal gang leaders in that group.

This penitentiary is considered by the government to be the most dangerous and violent in the country and there are often riots and fights between mafia groups linked to drug trafficking.

For a couple of years, Ecuador’s state prisons have become the scene of bloody clashes between rival groups of prisoners, some of them linked to Colombian and Mexican cartels.

According to the authorities, the disputes are over the control of routes and territories for the distribution of drugs at a national and international level.

On the outskirts of the Litoral Penitentiary, in Guayaquil, dozens of family members gathered, shouting for information about their relatives.

According to figures from the Service for the Attention of Persons Deprived of Liberty, last year 316 inmates were killed by their colleagues, while so far this year there have been 106 fatalities.

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

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