Fresh clashes at violence-torn prison in Ecuador

Fresh clashes at violence-torn prison in Ecuador


Fresh clashes were reported Tuesday at an Ecuadorian prison where 15 people died in a riot the day before, the state prison administration said.

Violence in Ecuador’s prisons, where drug gangs struggle for power, is often perpetrated with knives and sometimes includes beheadings. The riots have killed more than 400 prisoners since February 2021.

“There has been a new incident” at Latacunga Prison in central Ecuador, about 100 kilometers southeast of Quito, the SNAI Prison Authority told reporters.

Prison authorities were forced to dispatch tactical units to restore control after Monday’s riot that left at least 15 inmates dead and 33 wounded.

According to SNAI, the latest clashes took place in part of the medium-security prison, which houses 4,300 inmates and is one of the largest in the country.

The agency said “detonations” were heard but that police were “containing” the inmates. No deaths were reported.

Administrative staff were evacuated from the prison, SNAI said.

After the massacre on Monday, concerned relatives waited in front of the prison on Tuesday, hoping for information about their relatives.

“I am looking for my brother Carlos Bravo. I got here at 6am,” a whining woman, who did not give her name, told AFP.

“They told me to come and get my brother. I don’t know anything, there is no list (of the dead), nobody told me anything.”

A force of 600 police and military personnel entered the prison Monday to try to regain control from the rioters, authorities said.

– Riot triggered by inmate attack –

Monday’s riot was allegedly provoked by the murder of Leandro Norero, a 36-year-old suspected drug dealer known by the alias “El Patron” (the Boss).

Norero, who has become one of the leaders of a group of inmates, was arrested last May on money laundering charges in an operation that allegedly seized $6.4 million, 24 bars of gold, firearms and ammunition.

“As far as we can tell, Leandro Norero is among the victims,” ??said SNAI Deputy Director Jorge Flores.

Prosecutors said on Twitter that they were working to identify the dead.

Website GK said Monday’s riot broke out after an attack “against Norero and his security, at least six prisoners,” citing unnamed inmates.

Norero, who was also wanted by Peru, was allegedly a member of the Los Chone Killers gang.

Other gangs such as Los Choneros, Los Lobos and Los Tiguerones also have a strong presence in Ecuador’s prison system, from where the gang leaders direct the drug trade.

Norero’s murder could spark further clashes, the Interior Ministry said, adding: “We have to be careful.”

The country’s overcrowded prisons hold about 35,000 inmates, many of them members of drug-trafficking gangs.

A government committee noted in April that Ecuadorian prisons “are viewed as warehouses for people and centers of torture.”

Bordering Colombia and Peru, the world’s largest producers of cocaine, Ecuador serves as a port of entry for drug shipments, mainly to the United States and Europe.

To improve living conditions in Ecuador’s prisons, President Guillermo Lasso launched an inmate census in August.

During a TV interview on Monday, he sent “a message of condolences and solidarity to the families of those who died in (prison) today.”

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