Ecuadoran prison reported quiet after riot left 68 inmates dead

·2-min read

Soldiers toting shotguns took up positions Sunday outside a prison in Ecuador where a riot left at least 68 dead before authorities said they regained control of the overcrowded facility.

The prison in Guayaquil was reported quiet, as soldiers -- barred by law from going inside the prison -- backed up police who established a security perimeter around the same penitentiary where 119 prisoners died in a September riot, some of them decapitated.

This time fighting between rival prison gangs with guns, machetes and explosives first broke out Friday night, with social media posts showing gruesome images of prisoners beating and setting fire to bloodied bodies.

Authorities said they eventually restored control, but more attacks were reported Saturday evening in a different part of the prison.

President Guillermo Lasso's office said as the day of horror came to an end that the prison was finally under control thanks to the intervention of 900 police officers.

"There are no incidents underway now in the country's prisons," the government said in a statement Sunday.

This year Ecuador's violent, decrepit and overcrowded prisons have seen some of the worst rioting in the history of Latin American penitentiaries. The weekend massacre included, more than 320 inmates have been killed.

And it happened even though a state of emergency was declared in the prisons after the violence of September.

- 'He's alive!' -

Officials said the latest bout of violence started when the leader of one of the gangs inside the prison was released after serving part of his sentence.

Other groups, sensing weakness with that man gone, went on the attack to try to crush the rival gang.

Their goal was "to go in and carry out a total massacre," said Pablo Arosemena, governor of Guayas province where the prison is located.

In a video that went viral, a group of men stand around a pile of bodies and start to set them ablaze when someone detects movement and points to the bonfire.

"He's alive!" this person shouts. Then another man steps forward and attacks the body with machete blows.

So far 34 bodies have been identified but finger prints from 16 others could not be taken because they were in such bad condition, said the head of the police forensics department, Marco Ortiz.

The fatalities include a water resources activist named Victor Guayllas, who environmental groups say was arrested in 2019 for taking part in indigenous-led protests against fuel price hikes. That unrest left 11 people dead.

As happened Saturday, dozens of relatives of inmates gathered outside the prison again Sunday and at a police morgue, hoping to find out if their loved ones were among the dead.

At a local coroner's office, a man named Felix Gonzalez showed up Saturday holding his imprisoned son's ID card and asked if his body was there.

"It is not fair for him to die for stealing a cell phone," Gonzalez told AFP.


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