At least 75 people have been killed and dozens more injured in three separate prison riots in Ecuador, authorities said on Tuesday.
Officials blamed the riots at detention facilities in the cities of Guayaquil, Cuenca and Latacunga on disputes between rival gangs.
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Local media reported prisoners were killed in gun and knife attacks.
“These were two groups vying for criminal leadership within the detention centres,” said Edmundo Moncayo, the director of Ecuador’s prison agency.
Authorities have been able “to control and restore order within the detention centres” with the help of an additional 800 police officers, he added.
Several police were also injured, said Moncayo, but no deaths have been reported among security personnel.
As security forces battled to regain control, distraught family members waited desperately for news outside the prison in Ecuador’s western port city of Guayaquil, where officials said 21 died.
Ante los hechos suscitados el día de hoy en los CRS Guayas, Azuay y Cotopaxi @PoliciaEcuador se encuentra gestionando el control de los mismos. Al momento Criminalística reporta más de 50 PPL fallecidos.
Seguiremos informando… pic.twitter.com/OTbX3ziazU
— Policía Ecuador (@PoliciaEcuador) February 23, 2021
Translation: Given the events that occurred today in Guayas, Azuay and Cotopaxi @PoliciaEcuador is managing the control of them. At the moment there are reports of more than 50 dead. We will continue to inform …
Another 33 died at the prison in Cuenca in the south and eight in Latacunga in the center of the South American country, according to Edmundo Moncayo, director of the government’s SNAI prisons management body.
Earlier on Tuesday, Police General Commander Patricio Carrillo said on Twitter the riots involved high-security prisoners.
“All the prisons at the moment have restriction and controls in place,” Carrillo wrote.
The riots reportedly erupted on Monday night after prisoners took prison guards hostage.
Local media reported that several ambulances were seen leaving the jails.
As news of the riots was made public, dozens of prisoners’ relatives gathered outside the facilities to get more information on what was happening, local media said.
Images and videos circulating on social media showed inmates gathered on a prison rooftop with police officers on motorcycles and in patrol cars surrounding the building.
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno tweeted that gangs had carried out “simultaneous acts of violence in several prisons in the country”.
He said police, in coordination with Minister of Government Patricio Pazmino Castillo, were working to regain control of the prisons.
Tuesday’s riots coincided with a march of hundreds of indigenous people on Quito to demand a vote recount after a first round of presidential elections this month saw their candidate left out in the cold.
Prison riots and disputes between rival gangs frequently occur in Ecuador.
Five inmates were killed in a brawl in a prison in Latacunga in December.