QUITO, Ecuador (AP) – Sixty-two inmates have died in riots in prisons in three cities in Ecuador as a result of fights between rival gangs and an escape attempt, authorities said Tuesday.
The director of prisons, Edmundo Moncayo, told a press conference that 800 police offices have been helping to regain control of the facilities. Hundreds of officers from tactical units had been deployed since the fighting broke out Monday night.
Moncayo said that two groups were trying to gain “criminal leadership within detention centers” and that the clashes were precipitated by a search for weapons carried out Monday by police.
Photographs and videos on social media show suspected prisoners beheaded and dismembered amid pools of blood.
Deadly prison riots have occurred relatively frequently in recent years in Ecuador, whose prisons were designed for some 27,000 inmates but house about 38,000.
President Lenín Moreno tweeted that he ordered the Ministry of Defense “to exercise strict control of weapons, ammunition and explosives in the outer perimeters of prisons” as a result of the riots this week.
Moncayo said 33 died in Cuenca prison in southern Ecuador, 21 in the Pacific coastal city of Guayaquil and eight in the central city of Latacunga.
Moncayo said that about 70% of the country’s prison population lives in the centers where the riots occurred.
The Minister of Government, Patricio Pazmiño, sent a tweet accusing “the concerted action of criminal organizations to generate violence in the country’s prisons”, but added: “We are managing actions to regain control.”