A new episode of violence in an Ecuadorian prison has left at least 12 dead after a series of incidents this week which had already left a dozen dead, including three guards, the prosecution announced on Saturday.
New clashes erupted Friday in a prison in Guayaquil, leaving 12 prisoners dead, the prosecution said on Twitter. In this same prison, six prisoners were found hanged this week and three guards killed.
"An investigation has been opened to identify those responsible for the death of 12 inmates of the Littoral penitentiary in Guayaquil," added the prosecution.
Six detainees were found hanged on Wednesday in this prison in Guayaquil, a large port city in southwestern Ecuador plagued by violence linked to drug trafficking.
The next day, three female prison guards were shot dead by contract killers while they were in a restaurant outside this penitentiary complex in Guayaquil. And on Friday, at least three prisoners were injured in gun battles in the same prison.
Ecuadorian prisons are the scene of recurrent massacres between prisoners, against a backdrop of rivalry between criminal groups fighting over drug trafficking.
Since February 2021, eight massacres have been recorded in these prisons, with more than 400 prisoners killed, most of them dismembered and burned.
The country's main port on the Pacific coast, Guayaquil has in recent years become the hub and epicenter of drug trafficking in Ecuador, located between Colombia and Peru - the world's main cocaine producers.
On Friday, AFP correspondents heard gunfire from inside the prison and recorded aerial footage showing five bodies lying on the ground, a scene representative of one of the worst massacres in prisons in the world. country since 2021.
"We do not deny the reality and the fact that we are in the worst moment of violence in the country," Ecuadorian Defense Minister Juan Zapata said on Friday.
During the night from Friday to Saturday, the police and the army regained control of the prison which houses around 6,800 people and is part of a large prison complex in Guayaquil.
Drug traffickers wage war against each other for control of the drug market and use prisons as centers of operation, leading to deadly clashes at regular intervals.
The war of the narcos has already killed more than 420 prisoners since 2021. In September, some 120 prisoners were killed in the Guayas 1 penitentiary center, during the deadliest massacre in the history of the country and the one of the bloodiest in Latin America.
Drug-related violence is endemic in Ecuador.
On Tuesday, around 30 armed men opened fire in the small fishing port of Esmeraldas, in the north of the country, near the Colombian border, killing nine people.
The assailants arrived by boat and car and, without a word, fired on those present.
“What happened in Esmeraldas were not common law facts but terrorist acts,” said Mr. Zapata on this subject.
Faced with the surge of this violence, President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency on March 3 for 60 days in three provinces, including those of Guayaquil and Esmeraldas.
According to the first census made in 2022 in the country's prisons, Ecuador has about 31,000 prisoners in 36 prisons with a capacity of 30,000 people.
04/15/2023 21:16:30 - Quito (AFP) - © 2023 AFP