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Ecuador: continuation of bloody violence in a prison

A previous toll reported fifteen dead.

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Ecuador: continuation of bloody violence in a prison

A previous toll reported fifteen dead. The 16th death is an inmate who died of his injuries, said the prison administration (SNAI).

Since February 2021, the Ecuadorian prison system has experienced eight massacres between inmates, resulting in a total of more than 400 deaths.

"There are new clashes" in the Latacunga prison center, about 100 kilometers southeast of Quito, SNAI said on Tuesday.

Eleven new detainees were injured during the morning, according to the governor of the province of Cotopaxi, Oswaldo Coronel.

According to the prison administration, detonations were heard in the medium security wing of the prison and the administrative staff were evacuated.

The Latacunga prison center has some 4,300 inmates and is one of the largest in the country.

Fifteen prisoners were killed there on Monday and 33 others injured in clashes with knives and firearms, with once again acts of barbarism and mutilation of the victims. According to a prison administration official, a gang leader and inmate leader, nicknamed "El Patron", was among those killed.

"It's very sad to say, but the majority of the bodies have been dismembered," provincial official Franklin Poveda said. According to official accounts, the detainees mostly fought with knives.

Some 600 soldiers and police were called in as reinforcements on Monday to regain control of the prison.

Metal gates were installed in front of the penitentiary center, in the middle of an incessant ballet of ambulances rushing screaming sirens.

As with each of the clashes that regularly rock Ecuadorian prisons, families of detainees, in tears or panicked, rushed to hear from their loved ones, AFP noted.

"Oscar!", "David!", "Byron!"... the bereaved families shouted the name of their imprisoned brother, father or son.

The "ball in the stomach", Roberto, 43, recounts an interminable wait, until the moment when he was finally able to hear his nephew "Chucho" answer him "here I am", from behind the prison wall.

"I am looking for my brother Carlos Bravo. I arrived at six in the morning. They called me to tell me to come and get my brother. I don't know anything, there is no list, no one has said nothing," said a woman with eyes swollen with tears, who did not wish to identify herself.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso sent a "message of condolence and solidarity" to the relatives of the victims on Monday evening.

In this latest massacre, the violence was reportedly sparked by the murder of Leandro Norero, a 36-year-old drug dealer known as "El Patron". "From what we know, on a preliminary basis, Leandro Norero is among the victims," ​​said Jorge Flores, deputy director of the prison.

Leandro Norero was arrested in May for drug trafficking and money laundering during an operation in Guayaquil, the main Ecuadorian port through which a large part of the cocaine transits bound for Europe and the United States.

According to the GK website, which specializes in prison violence, "El Patron" was killed "the same day" he was to be charged with drug trafficking. He "has a long criminal record and was the leader of Los Ñetas, then founded Los Chone Killers with the alias Trompudo", according to the site.

Gangs such as Los Chone Killers, Los Choneros, Los Lobos or Los Tiguerones often manage the drug trade from detention centers and wage war inside and out to dominate the market.

The authorities have so far proved unable to curb this violence, often perpetrated with knives and marked by beheadings and other acts of barbarism.

Prison overcrowding in Ecuador was 30% in 2021, but it has been reduced thanks to presidential pardons and the application of inmate good behavior benefits.

Ecuador, which has a population of 18 million, is wedged between Colombia and Peru, the world's biggest cocaine producers. In 2021, the country seized a record volume of 210 tons of drugs. In the same year, the homicide rate nearly doubled to 14 murders per 100,000 people.

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