World

What Happened in the Ecuador Prison Riot?


TL;DR (2-minute read)

  1. The riot occurred on Tuesday, September 28th in Guayas prison complex, also known as the Litoral Penitentiary. What first started as a fist fight and escalated to prisoners using explosives and firearms against each other.
  2. The death toll has risen to 116 due to inmates from one cell crawling to another cell and brutally attacking rival gang members. Videos of the violence were spread to the family members of the prisoners, leaving dozens of families to crowd around the prison complex to find out if their loved ones are still alive. The fact that there are over a hundred casualties but only two officers  injured demonstrates that this fight was a gang war rather than an escape attempt. Officers think this fight could be a result of the illegal drug market. Cocaine from Peru and Columbia usually passes through Ecuador, making it a prime transit country and vulnerable to prison fights.

People pile outside of Ecuador’s Litoral Prison wait for news after 118 were killed in violent riots. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

1: What Initiated the Riots?

The riot occurred on Tuesday, September 28th in the Guayas prison complex, also known as the Litoral Penitentiary. What first started as a fistfight escalated to prisoners using explosives and firearms forcibly taken from cops and smuggled in against each other. The fight was  caused by inmates from one cell crawling to another cell and brutally attacking rival gang members.

2: What happened?

Police managed to escort six cooks to safety, with only two police officers  injured. By the end of Tuesday, Bolívar Garzón, Ecuador’s prison director, along with several police officers, found 24 bodies in the jail complex. According to Garzón, police officers continued to tally up the body count as they searched through the jail cells on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 116. Videos of the violence were spread to the family members of the prisoners, leaving dozens of families  crowded around the prison complex to find out if their loved ones are still alive. A family member of an inmate, Zenaida Moreira, is still waiting to know whether or not her 23 year old son, who was sent to Litoral Penitentiary two years ago for stealing chairs from a school, is still alive. After watching one of the videos from the prison, she fears that her son might be a victim from one of those videos: “I don’t know if one of the bodies I saw was his. I saw a decapitated head, the face is similar to his, but the authorities are not saying anything.” 

The Conversation

The fact that there are over a hundred casualties but only two officers  injured demonstrates that this fight was a gang war rather than an escape attempt. Officers think this fight could be a result of the illegal drug market. The prison is said to hold inmates from Los Choneros, which is an Ecuadorian gang that has links with the Sinaloa drug cartel. “The decapitations and the brutal nature of the violence seen inside the Litoral prison are hallmarks of the Mexican cartels, which often kill their rivals in the most gruesome ways to spread further terror.” 

Although this was the most recent and deadliest prison brawl in the history of Ecuador’s prisons, there have been a great number of prison fights this year. For example, 79 prisoners were killed in fights from four different jails, one of which was the Litoral Penitentiary. Cocaine from Peru and Columbia, neighboring countries, usually passes through Ecuador, making it a prime transit country and vulnerable to prison fights.

Sources

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-58733202

https://commentaryboxsports.com/at-least-67-killed-in-gang-violence-in-ecuadors-prisons-currently/

https://theconversation.com/ecuador-prison-riot-118-killed-as-gang-violence-spirals-out-of-control-in-latin-americas-jails-169233

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