At least 16 inmates have been reported dead earlier this week following yet a new episode of prison rioting in Ecuador, where over 400 prisoners have lost their lives in separate events since February of 2021.
New clashes were reported Tuesday at a detention facility where clashes between drug gangs left at least 16 inmates dead and many others wounded the eighth prison massacre in less than two years.
A new incident is presented in the medium-security wing at the Latacunga penitentiary, where detonations were heard, Ecuador's Prisons Bureau SNAI said Tuesday.
The new incidents occurred hours after a deadly riot in the modern prison in the central Andean region and capital of the province of Cotopaxi province. The unit houses some 4,300 inmates and is one of the most important in the country.
We had a balance of 16 casualties, Interior Minister Juan Zapata said Tuesday. He added that 350 police officers and 250 military personnel were involved in the operation carried out by the authorities to retake control of both the medium and low danger wards of the prison, where other massacres have already happened since February 2021.
Zapata also pointed out that entering the prison with Army help was possible thanks to new provisions in the law regulating the use of force by state authorities.
Cotopaxi Governor Oswaldo Coronel said 12 of the victims had been identified.
President Guillermo Lasso expressed his condolences to the families of the victims in a broadcast message Monday evening.
Local authorities also confirmed Tuesday that drug kingpin Leandro Norero, known as El Patrón (The Boss), was among this week's dead. Norero, 35, had escaped from Peru by faking his death during the Covid-19 pandemic. He was awaiting trial for drug trafficking and money laundering in Ecuador, he was being held in the state prison in Latacunga.
The Prisons Bureau also said two of the wounded were in critical condition as dozens of relatives of the detainees gathered outside the Latacunga prison Tuesday to find out about the fate of their loved ones.
The new massacre took place just two days after a team of UN human rights experts concluded a visit to the country to evaluate the situation at prisons recurrently hit by riots and violence. In recent years, Ecuador's prisons have become battlegrounds where gangs linked to drug trafficking fight for power. This war also extends to the streets of several cities such as Guayaquil, a city with a 13,100-capacity prison. The Ecuadorian Government carried out a penitentiary census in August to tackle prison overcrowding.
The most serious massacre occurred in September 2021 at the Penitenciaría del Litoral, in the city of Guayaquil, where 125 inmates were killed. Two months later, a new massacre took place in that prison, in which 65 people lost their lives.
Ecuador's prison system is designed to hold about 30,000 people, but last month there were about 35,000 inmates throughout the country's 53 state prisons.