Five guards freed after new Ecuador prison riot controlled

Inmates are seen during an investigation at the prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on February 25, 2021, following a riot. – At least 79 inmates died in simultaneous riots blamed on gang warfare at four prisons in Ecuador, officials said Wednesday. (Photo by JOSE SANCHEZ LINDAO / AFP)

QUITO, Ecuador (AFP) — Five prison guards held after a new riot broke out in an Ecuadorian prison were released Monday after the unrest was controlled without fatalities, a week after 79 inmates died in bloody gang warfare, the police said.

“The servants of the security corps, who were held by the inmates, are safe and without damage to their physical integrity or health,” the prison authority said in a statement.

“No deaths were recorded” during the riot.

The police said on Twitter that its agents’ actions “made it possible to control the incidents” in the Cotopaxi prison in the central city of Latacunga.

Earlier Monday, police chief Patricio Carillo tweeted that “a new riot in Cotopaxi (prison) left five guards held.”

A week ago, simultaneous riots broke out in four prisons, including the Cotopaxi facility, leaving some inmates burnt and decapitated as savage fighting broke out between rival gangs.

Ecuador’s human rights ombudsman described it as an “unprecedented massacre.”

Authorities blamed gangs believed to be linked to organized crime in Mexico and Colombia.

President Lenin Moreno denounced the “barbarity” of the riots and said the gangs were “fighting for leadership and the trafficking of drugs throughout” Ecuador.

The four prisons account for 70 percent of Ecuador’s 38,000 inmates.

Ecuador only has the capacity to hold 29,000 people in 60 prison facilities, meaning its system is around 30 percent overpopulated.

Coupled with that is a lack of guards with 1,500 employed when 4,000 are needed.

© Agence France-Presse