By Ebi Kesiena
Ferocious prison riot on Saturday has left 68 inmates dead in an Ecuador prison, police said in the latest unrest at a Guayaquil jail that was the scene of a September riot which killed 119 prisoners.
According to the Ecuador Prosecutor’s Office on Twitter, about 68 prisoners were killed and another 25 were wounded.
The riot began around 7:00 pm Friday (0000 GMT) when prisoners tried to enter a section of the jail, firing gunshots and using explosives, and police moved in to contain the unrest.
Police Commander, General Tannya Varela explained that the events are the result of a territorial dispute between criminal gangs inside the penitentiary.
Varela had earlier told reporters that 58 people were killed.
Due to the riot, police officers in riot gear were seen climbing up the blood-stained prison walls, while a body of an inmate in an orange prison jumpsuit lay on the roof of the jail encircled by barbed wire.
Meanwhile, scores of people gathered outside the prison gates, weeping and trying to learn the fate of their relatives inside.
Images posted on social networks, whose authenticity has not been confirmed by the authorities, showed a pile of listless bodies in a night-time prison courtyard being consumed by flames while inmates standing nearby beat the bodies with sticks.
Recall that more than 300 prisoners have been killed this year in Ecuador’s criminal detention system, where thousands of inmates tied to drug gangs square off in violent clashes that often turn into riots.
September’s unrest was one of the worst prison massacres in Latin American history, and the latest deadly violence in Guayaquil only reaffirmed the broken state of Ecuador’s jails.
Rival narcotics gangs have been waging a bloody feud in the Guayas 1 Prison, a facility that was designed for 5,300 inmates, but houses 8,500 — 60 percent more than capacity.
But even after a crackdown in the wake of the September 28 tragedy that killed 119, the unrest has persisted, with at least 15 more inmates dying prior to Friday’s deadly burst of violence.
Two weeks after the September disaster the country’s President, Guillermo Lasso, declared a 60-day state of emergency in a bid to tame Ecuador’s surging drug-related unrest.
He also named a new Defense Minister in part to address the massive prisons crisis.
However, according to the Government, violence has spiked dramatically in recent months in Ecuador, whose economy is ailing.
Between January and October this year, the country registered almost 1,900 homicides, compared to about 1,400 in all of 2020.