Inmates at a penitentiary in Cuenca (300 km south of Quito) take 57 guards hostage, says Ecuador’s Interior Minister, Juan Zapata. Seven of them are police officers. “We are concerned about the safety of our employees,” Zapata told reporters in the capital.
Snai, the national body that deals with people deprived of their liberty, states in a note published on Thursday night (31) that there are six detention centers that are rebelling.
Hours earlier, in the early hours of Thursday, two car bombs exploded in Quito and two more in the regions of Pasaje and Machala, according to local press. The explosions in the capital took place near an Snai office and another building that had been used by the agency. There were no injuries in the attacks.
According to security authorities, six suspects were arrested for the first explosion — 5 were Ecuadorian and 1 was Colombian — and four for the second. Minister Zapata told reporters that most of them have criminal records.
On Wednesday (30), hundreds of Army soldiers and police carried out an operation in search of weapons, ammunition and explosives in a prison in the city of Latacunga, in the south of the country, the scene of frequent massacres among inmates, which have left more of 430 deaths since 2021. The president, Guillermo Lasso, stated via the social network X, formerly Twitter, that the violent actions were a response to the operation.
Later, authorities indicated that the rebellion was a protest against the transfer of prisoners to other penitentiaries.
Ecuador is experiencing a wave of violence that culminated in the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in early August. He was shot in the head as he left a campaign event at a high school in the capital. Lasso declared a state of emergency in the country and maintained the election date, which took place on August 20th and which led to the second round of Luisa González, supported by former president Rafael Correa and liberal businessman Daniel Noboa.
The security crisis is rife with episodes of riots and clashes between factions in prisons, which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people in recent years. In just one incident in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, 31 inmates died during a clash at a penitentiary in July.
The homicide rate in the country jumped from 14 to 25 per 100,000 inhabitants from 2021 to 2022, and cities like Guayaquil have also been the scene of a wave of violence on the streets, with deaths in armed attacks.
Previously seen as a peaceful nation, Ecuador is plagued by drug trafficking factions that compete for drug transport routes — the country is sandwiched between Peru and Colombia, major producers and exporters of cocaine.