Ecuador prison riot leaves at least 43 dead
At least 43 inmates died on Monday in Ecuador's latest grisly prison riot, the public prosecutor said.
Authorities said a fight broke out between the rival Los Lobos and R7 gangs inside the Bellavista prison in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, in the center of Ecuador some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Quito.
"For now there are 43 inmates dead," said the public prosecutor's office on Twitter, adding that the situation was "developing."
The South American country's prison authority SNAI said it has activated "security protocols" to contain the "disturbances to order."
Interior minister Patricio Carrillo initially told reporters that two inmates had been killed before later increasing that figure to 41 in a press conference. The public prosecutor's office then tweeted the latest death toll.
Carrillo had also claimed authorities were in control.
During the riot, at least 112 people tried to escape but were detained by security forces inside the prison grounds, said Carrillo.
Inmates with facial injuries were taken by truck and ambulance to medical facilities while family members of those incarcerated gathered at the prison looking for information, AFP reporters at the scene said.
Authorities have said they will carry out a search for weapons and transfer gang leaders to a different prison.
Prior to this one, around 350 inmates had been killed in five separate prison riots since February 2021.
Just last month, at least 20 inmates died inside the El Turi prison in Cuenca, southern Ecuador.
Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso insists the problem inside the facilities mirrors that outside, where drug gangs are vying for control of trafficking routes.
Those rivalries among inmates sometimes explode into violence, with some prisoners hacked to death or beheaded with machetes.
Even with greater investment in the prison system, the creation of a commission to pacify facilities and new policies such as the holding of the most dangerous prisoners at a single penitentiary, have not reduced the bloody violence.
Ecuador has also seen a rise in street crime and drug trafficking which the government has tried to tackle by declaring a state of emergency in the three worst affected provinces: Guayas, Manabi and Esmeraldas.
The country seized a record 210 tons of drugs in 2021 and has already seized another 82 tons this year.
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