The situation is dramatic and explosive in the prison world in Ecuador. At least 43 prisoners died during clashes between rival gangs on Monday in a prison in the country, from where a hundred other prisoners were able to escape thanks to the violence.

“Forty-three detainees have so far died,” the Attorney General’s office announced on its Twitter account, while Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo announced 41 dead at a press conference. “Thirteen people have been hospitalized, several of whom are seriously injured, it is possible that the number (of deaths) will increase”, also commented on the minister. With a capacity of 1,200 places, the prison currently accommodates 1,700 prisoners.

“The attackers acted with great cruelty”

The violence took place in Bellavista prison, in the province of Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, about 80 km west of Quito. On the spot, wounded with facial wounds were taken care of by ambulances and relatives of detainees crowded around the penitentiary center to try to obtain information.

According to the Ecuadorian police chief, “the attackers acted with great cruelty”, while the violence was followed by a mass escape. If the authorities gave no figure on the total number of escapees, 112 of them could be “recaptured”, but 108 were still “missing” Monday afternoon, according to the head of the police, General Fausto Salinas. “250 police, 200 soldiers and additional reinforcements are on the way,” he said.

The “Wolves” and the “R7” clash

“This is the regrettable result of gang violence,” President Guillermo Lasso, on tour in Israel, lamented on Twitter. He sent his “sincere condolences to the families” of those who died. Clashes between members of two rival gangs, the “Wolves” and the “R7”, broke out around 3 a.m., the minister said, triggering “security protocols” to contain “disorders in the jail. “The majority of the victims, if not almost 100%, were killed with knives, not with firearms”, and “their mutilated corpses left behind”. “They were executed in the common rooms, in the cells”, then “there was a massive escape attempt” with the use of firearms, recognized Patricio Carrillo.

Clashes, often extremely violent, are recurrent in Ecuadorian prisons, where nearly 350 inmates have died since February 2021. According to the government, rival gangs of drug traffickers, infiltrated or controlled by Mexican cartels, are waging a merciless war for control of the overcrowded prisons, a war that the authorities have so far been powerless to stem.

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