At least 43 dead inmates left a riot in a prison in central Ecuador, plagued by the unchecked increase in drug trafficking and criminal violence, authorities reported Monday.

"Until now 43 deceased inmates are counted" for the riot in the Bellavista prison in Santo Domingo los Tsáchilas (Colorados, about 80 km from Quito), the Prosecutor’s Office indicated on Twitter, noting that the information is "Developing".

The Minister of the Interior, Patrick Carrillo, who earlier had reported two dead and five injured, said at a press conference that the death toll was 41.

Carrillo declared that the authorities have "control of all pavilions".

In Ecuadorian prisons, 350 inmates have been brutally killed since February 2021 in the midst of violence that the government attributes to the confrontation of criminal groups linked to drug trafficking.

The authorities reiterated that a clash between gangs was behind the violence in Bellavista.

"This is an unfortunate result of gang violence"President Guillermo Lasso, on tour in Israel, said on Twitter. The president sent his "condolences to the relatives" of the deceased.

The Wolves gang "assault and eliminate 41 people from the other organization"said Carrillo, alluding to one of his factions called "R7".

Wounded with beaten faces were transferred in vans and ambulances to receive medical attention, while relatives of the prisoners crowded in the vicinity of the prison, AFP found.

The events led to an escape attempt, but the authorities recaptured at least 112 fugitives, Carrillo said.

Despite multiple measures -including the allocation of a budget, the transfer of the most dangerous inmates to a single center and the creation of a pacification commission- the Lasso government has not been able to stop the prison massacres, one of the worst in Latin America.

– Requisitions and transfer of prisoners –

Along with the brutal massacres in the prisons, Ecuador faces an increase in violence in the streets and drug trafficking, which the government tries to control through a state of emergency in the provinces of Guayas, Manabí and Esmeraldas, the most affected by the drug traffic.

So far this year, the country has seized some 82 tons of drugs and in 2021 it seized a record 210 tons.

In the first four months of the year, 1,255 violent deaths have been reported in the country -including beheadings and mutilations-, half of what was recorded in all of 2021.

A month before this new riot in the Bellavista prison, a confrontation between inmates of the El Turi penitentiary center, in the Andean city of Cuenca (south), left 20 dead, some mutilated.

The body in charge of administering the prisons, SNAI, indicated that it activated "security protocols" to contain the "order disturbances" in prison.

The authorities plan to carry out a weapons search in the prison and transfer the gang leaders to a prison in the coastal province of Guayas (southwest), where the worst prison massacres have been reported since February of last year.

Overcrowding is another problem in Ecuadorian prisons: in the country’s 65 prisons, with a capacity for some 30,000 people, there are some 35,000 prisoners, according to the authorities.


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