The great Most of the 220 prisoners escaped from a prison in central Ecuador were recapturedthe Police announced on Tuesday, a day after a deadly brawl that resembled a “carnage”, according to the disconsolate relatives of the victims.
“There was a total of 220 citizens who escaped yesterday and at the moment 200 are recaptured“Due to police and military patrols and checkpoints, the chief of operations of the Ecuadorian Police, General Geovanny Ponce, told the press.
Authorities initially said 112 inmates had been “recaptured” and another 108 were still at large.
The AFP observed uniformed officers grouping approximately 80 presumably recaptured inmates, while others were led away, hands behind their necks, escorted by policemen in riot gear, according to images released by the Police on Twitter.
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The escape occurred during a bloody fight between rival gangs in the Bellavista prison, in the city of Santo Domingo (about 80 km from Quito), which left 44 inmates dead, according to the latest balance.
Ten other prisoners were injured, in addition to a policeman.
Two of the deceased are Venezuelans and so far 41 bodies have been identified, said the police chief, who described a situation of “total tranquility” in the prison.
The government will offer rewards of up to $3,000 for those who provide information on the 20 inmates who remain at large.
Meanwhile, the uncertainty continued for dozens of disconsolate relatives, mostly women, who crowded at the prison gates waiting for official information about their loved ones.
Soldiers armed with shotguns guarded the vicinity, AFP found.
“They don’t give us any information. They say that the young people escaped to save their lives,” Leisi Zambrano, who was waiting for news of her brother, told AFP.
“There are many mothers who until now have not given them news of their dead, of whether they are alive,” added the 48-year-old woman.
In the bloody confrontation, the Los Lobos gang attacked another rival, the “R7”, murdering its members with knives inside the cells.
The authorities found rifles, pistols, grenades and ammunition after retaking control of the prison.
The incident, just over a month after another massacre that left 20 inmates dead, once again highlighted the crisis of prison violence in Ecuador, which the government attributes to the fight between gangs that dispute territory to distribute drugs inside and outside. of the prisons.
There are already almost 400 inmates killed in six massacres in Ecuador’s prisons since February 2021.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reiterated her “profound alarm” and underlined “the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system” in Ecuador, according to her spokesperson Liz Throssell.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an OAS body, condemned the violence and called for a “quick, serious and impartial” investigation.
As soon as he learned of the confrontations, Zambrano said he had gone to the prison at dawn and heard that from inside “the prisoners were asking for help, not to let them die.”
“It’s a butcher shop inside,” he told AFP.
To try to curb the violence, six gang leaders were transferred from Bellavista to two maximum security prisons.
The government of President Guillermo Lasso had previously decided to relocate dangerous prisoners, within the framework of a set of measures that include pardons to reduce widespread overcrowding, the allocation of budgets to prisons and the creation of a pacification commission.
But these measures have apparently been insufficient to stop the prison massacres, one of the worst in Latin America.
According to the authorities, the clashes on Monday were caused by the transfer to Bellavista of one of the leaders of the R7 group, by court order.
Government officials criticized that decision, which was made without the “endorsement of the reports” from the prison services, said their boss, Pablo Ramírez.
Likewise, the government decreed a state of emergency until the end of June in three western provinces -Guayas, Manabí and Esmeraldas-, the hardest hit by drug trafficking, given the violence in the country’s streets attributed to drug trafficking.
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Outside prisons, the number of deaths reached 1,255 in the first four months of the year -among them beheaded and mutilated-, half of what was registered in all of 2021.
“What happened in Santo Domingo is going to be reflected in the neighborhoods where the gangs that clashed operate,” human rights activist Luis Saavedra told AFP.
“Then, the more violence there is in the prison, the greater number of hitmen there will be in the neighborhoods,” he said.