Ecuador starts building prison for narco bosses

Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa speaks during the launch of construction of a maximum security prison for 800 prisoners in the coastal town of Santa Elena (Gerardo MENOSCAL)
Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa speaks during the launch of construction of a maximum security prison for 800 prisoners in the coastal town of Santa Elena (Gerardo MENOSCAL)

Ecuador on Friday began building an 800-person maximum security prison that will house the most dangerous drug lords in the country which has declared war against organized crime.

Once-peaceful Ecuador has been brought to its knees by transnational cartels that use its ports to ship cocaine to the United States and Europe, and have spread shocking levels of violence in the country.

The country's prisons have become the nerve center for the gangs, with more than 460 inmates killed in three years in bloody narco wars.

The January jailbreak of a major drug lord, who is still on the run, led to a spasm of violence that prompted President Daniel Noboa to declare a state of "internal armed conflict."

"Today we mark one of the most important milestones in our fight against terrorism and the mafias that have entrenched themselves with impunity in our country for decades," said Noboa, at an event to mark the start of the prison's construction in the coastal town of Santa Elena.

He said the government would allocate $52 million for the construction of the jail, designed to "reclassify and isolate highly dangerous criminals, the leaders of the mafias, who will be monitored in real-time."

After taking office in November, Noboa vowed to build two maximum security prisons -- similar to one built by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele in his controversial war on gangs.

General Luis Zaldumbide, director of the state prisons agency SNAI, said the prison will be the 37th in Ecuador, and will be built in a "record time" of 300 days.

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