Authorities say at least 43 people have been killed after a fight broke out between rival gangs at a prison 80km from Quito.
Dozens of people have been killed in a fight between rival gangs inside a prison in Ecuador, prosecutors said, in the latest case of deadly prison violence in the South American nation.
Authorities said a fight broke out Monday between rival gangs Los Lobos and R7 inside the Bellavista prison in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the capital Quito.
“For now there are 43 inmates dead,” the prosecution said on Twitter, adding that the situation is “developing.”
Relatives of those incarcerated in the penitentiary center gathered in front of the compound to try to obtain information about what happened, the AFP news agency reported, while the prisoners with facial injuries were transferred by truck and ambulance to the medical facilities.
Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said the fight broke out in the early hours of Monday, triggering “security protocols” to try to contain the situation.
At least 112 inmates who tried to escape during the riot were recaptured by security forces inside the prison grounds, Carrillo said, while another 108 inmates remained at large.
The incident is the latest outbreak of deadly violence to break out in an Ecuadorian prison in recent months, after more than 100 inmates were killed and dozens more injured in a riot at a facility in Guayaquil, some 400 km (250 miles) from Quito, in September of last year.
The riot at the Litoral Penitentiary pushed the government to declare a state of emergency and deploy hundreds of police and military personnel to the prison. The country has also pledged to pardon up to 2,000 inmates in a bid to ease overcrowding at the facility.
An Ecuadorian prison expert told Al Jazeera late last year that the violence shows authorities have lost control, urging them to provide more rehabilitation programs for prisoners and dismantle armed groups operating inside the prisons. prisons.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said that the system is ruined by the abandonment of the State and the absence of a comprehensive policy, as well as by the poor conditions of the inmates.
The country’s prisons house 35,000 people and are overcrowded 15 percent above their maximum capacity.
Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Bogotá, the Colombian capital, said that the “government of Ecuador has been fighting very hard” to address prison violence amid last year’s wave of unrest.
President Guillermo Lasso announced a “special plan” last month to try to control the situation, Rampietti said, “but it’s clear that that hasn’t happened yet.”
The government has blamed the wave of violence on rival drug gangs infiltrated or controlled by Mexican cartels, which it says are locked in a battle for control.
Located between Colombia and Peru, the world’s top cocaine producers, the country is a key transit point for drug shipments to the United States and Europe. Last year, Ecuador seized a record 210 tons of drugs, mainly cocaine.
Before Monday’s riots, some 350 inmates had been killed in five separate prison riots since February 2021.
Just last month, at least 20 inmates died inside the El Turi prison in Cuenca, in the south of the country.