About 50 Ecuadorian inmates died in prisons due to riots on Tuesday, as local police described the violence as “concerted.”
The riots happened in prisons across Ecuador, in the cities of Guayaquil, Cuenca, and Latacunga, Voice of America reports.
A state of emergency was declared on the national prison system by President Lenín Moreno, ordering for reinforcement of security measures.
“As a result of the violent riots carried out today among gangs in three of the country’s prisons, I have ordered (the Ministry of Defense) to exercise strict gun, ammunition and explosives control in the surrounding areas of correctional facilities,” said Mr. Moreno via his Twitter handle.
Earlier in the day, the president said he had “authorised the use of force in a progressive way to guarantee the safety of citizens in confinement.”
After security forces were able to bring the situation back under control, investigators searched cells.
The prosecutor’s office said firearms, machetes, knives, and mobile phones were found and seized in Guayaquil.
In December, riots in several Ecuadorian prisons fueled by gang rivalry left 11 prisoners dead and seven injured. Inmate disputes left 51 dead in 2020.
The 90-day state of emergency placed on the country’s corrective facilities by Mr. Moreno to bring “mafia” groups under control was lifted in November. This was in a bid to curtail violence.
Out of Ecuador’s 17 million people, there are some 38,000 prisoners.
The government commuted the sentences of people convicted of minor offences, reducing overcrowding from 42 percent to 30 percent to reduce prisoner numbers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.