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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Security forces guard before the start of a caravan in support of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Daniel Noboa, of the National Democratic Action Party, in Guayaquil October 6, 2023. — AFP pic
GUAYAQUIL (Ecuador), Oct 7 — Six inmates were killed yesterday during a disturbance inside a Guayaquil prison, authorities said, in the latest deadly unrest to strike Ecuador’s penal system.
“An event occurred” in one of the cellblocks of the Guayas 1 prison, “resulting in six dead people,” the SNAI national prison authority said in a statement.
The public prosecutor’s office said that its agents, along with police and the military, were “executing security protocols... in light of the disturbance that occurred Friday afternoon.”
It added in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that “in the coming hours, specialized military personnel will carry out the first raids and reconnaissance of Cellblock 7, where the incidents originated, to take control of the situation.”
Guayas 1 is one of five facilities that make up a large prison complex in Guayaquil, a key port city that has become one of the country’s increasingly bloody centres of a turf war between rival drug-trafficking gangs.
In late July, a riot in the Guayas 1 prison left more than 30 people dead.
According to press reports, the victims are the six Colombians who were arrested following the murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio on August 9 as he was leaving a rally in northern Quito ahead of first round elections.
Authorities have not confirmed those reports.
Right-wing president Guillermo Lasso, who on Thursday travelled to New York for personal matters, announced on X that he would “immediately convene the Security Cabinet.”
“In the next few hours I will return to Ecuador to attend to this emergency. Neither complicity nor cover-up, here the truth will be known,” he added.
Key election issue
The president was scheduled to go from New York to Seoul on an official visit for trade agreement talks.
Conflict between powerful gangs linked to Colombian and Mexican cartels has led to more than 430 inmate deaths in Ecuador since 2021, in massacres that leave a trail of burned and dismembered bodies.
In late August, dozens of guards were taken hostage at several prisons around the country before eventually being released.
On Ecuador’s streets, homicides have quadrupled between 2018 and 2022, climbing to a record 26 per 100,000 inhabitants.
That rate could climb as high as 40 this year, according to experts.
Ecuador was once a peaceful haven nestled between the world’s largest cocaine producers — Colombia and Peru.
However, the war on drugs in other South American nations displaced drug cartels to Ecuador, which has large Pacific ports with laxer controls, widespread corruption, and a dollarized economy.
The prisons crisis has become a key point of debate ahead of the second round election on October 15, between leftist lawyer Luisa Gonzalez and 35-year-old upstart Daniel Noboa.
Noboa has proposed leasing ships to hold the country’s most violent prisoners offshore. — AFP
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