A brutal riot in an Ecuadorian prison has left more than 100 inmates dead after rival gangs gained access to guns, grenades, machetes, and chainsaws. Fighting in the Litoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil became the worse outbreak of a series of violent clashes which have taken place in prisons throughout Ecuador. The battles are apparently connected to rivalries between Mexican drug cartels which are attempting to spread their influence in Ecuador through the prison system.
116 dead in prison riot
Hundreds of police officers fought their way into the facility on October 1 to quell the uprising. Rioting prisoners met them with grenades and gunfire.
After regaining control of the prison police ultimately found 118 inmates dead and 80 wounded. Many of the corpses had been decapitated.
The brutality of the killing was surely meant to send a message as rival gangs aim to intimidate each other as part of an ongoing gang war in Ecuadorian prisons.
Clashes in 2021 have now killed hundreds of inmates; the battle at the Litoral Penitentiary was the bloodiest outbreak of the fighting so far.
The fighting is believed to be connected to international organized crime networks. Mexican cartels are reportedly fueling the clashes by competing for allies among gangs in Ecuador.
The US State Department considers Ecuador to be a major source of cocaine which is smuggled into the United States and Europe.
Ongoing crisis for Ecuador
Ecuador is responding to the crisis by seeking to relieve overcrowding in prisons, a factor which is blamed for raising tensions between factions.
Thousands of pardons are to be given initially to women, the elderly, and disabled prisoners who might find themselves caught in future gang battles.
President Guillermo Lasso had already approved the use of additional funds to improve prison security and begin to release eligible prisoners.
Now military and police forces are being sent to maintain order at prisons around the country in response to the emergency.
There are currently 39,000 inmates held in the Ecuadorian prison system, a number which authorities hope to bring down as certain nonviolent prisoners are pardoned.
Calls for similar measures had already been made after deadly riots in February and July which left more than 100 dead before the latest uprising began in Guayaquil.