October 20222022International News

Prison Riots Highlights Conditions in Ecuadorian Prison System

Anthony Samaniego
Staff Writer

On October 3, 2022, a prison riot in the Cotopaxi Jail located in the city of Latacunga, Ecuador, left 43 prisoners injured and 16 dead, according to Ecuadorian news outlet Ecuavisa. The following day a ninth prison massacre caused by gang violence this year occurred at the Littoral Penitentiary leaving 13 prisoners dead, says ecuavisa. Meanwhile, in the early morning of October 8 two prisoners were found dead with asphyxiation signs at the Esmeraldas Jail. Prison massacres becoming more common in Ecuador has sparked concerns among numerous international organizations. 

CBS News reports that during the Cotopaxi riot that tactical units conducted operations to regain control of the facility, which houses about 4,300 prisoners and is one of the largest prisons in Ecuador. Authorities are still working on identifying the dead bodies from the Cotopaxi riot reports Al Jazeera. The governor of the Cotopaxi province Oswaldo Coronel told reporters that security has been restored. Coronel informed reporters that 14 of the injured prisoners from the massacre had been taken to the hospital according to Al Jazeera.

Another prison riot occurred at the Guayas Prison located in the port city of Guayaquil leaving at least 13 people dead according to a statement from SNAI, Ecuador’s national prison service, released on October 6, says InSight Crime. The massacre that occurred at the Guayas prison likely was a response to the death of prominent drug trafficker and money launderer, Leandro Norero, also known as “El Patrón” who was killed during the Cotopaxi prison massacre according to InSight Crime. 

The violence occurring in Ecuador’s prisons lately consists of gangs competing for power and is often carried out with knives and even sometimes involves beheadings, according to CBS news. Since February 2021, 400 prisoners have been killed due to prison violence. Another prison massacre occurred in July in the city of Santo Domingo located in the province of Tsachilas just two months after the violence at the same institution in May. In July the prison massacre at the Santo Domingo jail took the lives of 12 prisoners and in May the lives of 43 prisoners were lost.

According to Reuters, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) stated that Ecuador’s prison system suffers from state abandonment, poor living conditions, and inconsistent policies. A delegation from the IACHR visited Ecuador in December after the violent prison clashes across the country in 2022. The IACHR report found that over-crowdedness due to arbitrary detentions and budget cuts lead to weakened security within the prison system according to Reuters. The Ecuadorian government did not comment on the IACHR’s findings. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has concluded that the current administration of Guillermo Lasso has no comprehensive policy for the country’s prison system. The conditions that inmates endure consist of crowdedness and life-threatening conditions towards inmates as a result of the dangerous rivalry between criminal groups in the prison system. Families of the dead inmates have expressed that the number of those who died in the prison unrest is far higher than statistics show and have been calling for reforms that legally ensure safety for the inmates while serving time in prison. All of the inmate’s families have together formed the Committee of Families for Justice in Prisons in order to demand the state be held accountable for decades of negligence according to Al Jazeera. Ecuador’s prisons hold a total of 33, 500 inmates, which is 11.3 percent beyond the maximum capacity according to official statistics. 

Image courtesy of William Warby, Flickr

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