“Butcher’s shop”, 200 fugitives were arrested

Posted on Wed May 11, 2022 at 05:25

Security forces recaptured two hundred fugitive detainees on Tuesday, a day after a mass escape from a prison in North Equateur following a deadly riot, a “massacre” according to relatives of the bereaved victims.

“So far, 200 prisoners have been detained” by the security forces thanks to police and army patrols and checkpoints, said police operations chief General Giovanni Ponce.

According to the latest official report, at least 44 prisoners were killed in clashes between two rival gangs on Monday in the Bellavista prison in the province of Santo Domingo de los Tsachillas, some 80 kilometers west of Quito.

Ten other prisoners were wounded, in addition to a policeman, according to the authorities.

According to police reports, a total of 220 prisoners escaped as a result of the violence.

Two of the dead are Venezuelans, and 41 bodies have been identified so far, according to General Pons, who spoke of the return of “complete calm” to the prison.

Authorities are offering rewards of up to $3,000 to those who help capture the twenty or so prisoners who are still missing.

President Guillermo Lasso said Tuesday that his government is waging an “unconventional war” against a “new enemy” in Ecuador, during a meeting with an Israeli security company in Tel Aviv where he was on a visit to provide Ecuador with techniques to combat violence also spreading in the streets.

And the French news agency indicated that dozens of families and relatives of prisoners waited on Tuesday, waiting for news of their loved ones, waiting in desperation and in tears.

Soldiers and soldiers were deployed in and around the establishment. Agence France-Presse also noted that men in military uniforms have detained around 80 detainees who are believed to have been re-arrested in the last hours.

“They don’t give us any information. They say young men ran to save their lives, others will be taken away,” said Lisi Zambrano, a 48-year-old housewife who has no news of her brother.

– Desperate calls –

As soon as she heard about the clashes, Ms. Zambrano said that she rushed to the prison in the early hours of the morning accompanied by other family members.

“We heard prisoners asking for help, not letting them die,” she says, commenting, “Inside is a butcher’s shop.”

In prison, AFP journalists noticed burnt facades and a hole in the wall that could have been used to escape.

Horrific videos are circulating on social media showing a pile of bloodied, naked and mutilated corpses on the floor of a common room covered in hemoglobin. Or corpses scattered in the corridors of the prison, next to the mattresses that the attackers may have tried to light.

According to Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo, members of the Los Lobos (Wolves) gang “attacked” members of the rival R7 faction with knives.

The authorities also found rifles, pistols, hand grenades and ammunition.

In an effort to stem the violence, six leaders of these gangs have since been flown by helicopter to two high-security prisons elsewhere in the country.

With a capacity of 1,200 places, Bellavista prison holds 1,700 prisoners, which reflects the prison overcrowding in all prisons in Ecuador.

“These worrying incidents once again underscore the urgent need for comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system,” said the spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Clashes, often extremely violent, are frequent in Ecuadorean prisons, where nearly 400 detainees have died since February 2021, including the most recent.

According to the government, rival gangs of drug smugglers, infiltrated or under the control of Mexican gangs, are waging an all-out war to control overcrowded prisons, a war the authorities have hitherto been powerless to stop.

Rights activist Luis Saavedra told AFP that what happened in the Bellavista prison “will be reflected in the neighborhoods (in cities) where the gangs that clashed are active.”

He estimated that “the more violence in prisons, the higher the number of murders in these neighbourhoods,” while drug seizures in the country continue to rise (210 tons in 2021, already 70 tons at the beginning of 2022). .

Bordered by Colombia and Peru, the world’s largest cocaine producers, Ecuador serves as a staging port for illicit shipments, mainly to the United States and Europe.

The country recorded more than 1,200 murders in the first four months of 2022.


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