Inmates free 57 Ecuador prison guards after stand-off
The prison service (SNAI) has reported that inmates in six Ecuadorian prisons have released 50 guards and seven police officers who were previously held hostage.
These 57 hostages are currently undergoing medical evaluation and appear to be in satisfactory health, as stated by SNAI. The orchestrated kidnappings were allegedly carried out by criminal gangs who were infuriated by attempts to limit their influence.
Additionally, these gangs have been held responsible for two car bombings near police facilities in the capital city of Quito. Authorities suspect that at least one of these incidents might be in retaliation for a police operation to search for weapons at one of the country’s largest penitentiaries, Cotopaxi jail in Latacunga, located approximately 55 miles (88km) south of Quito.
This search was conducted by hundreds of police officers and soldiers as part of efforts to prevent further violence within the prison on Wednesday.
Normal activities have now been resumed in the six facilities, including a young offenders unit which was badly damaged by an arson attack. Officials have not offered any details as to how or why the officers were released.
“The measures we have taken, especially in the prison system, have generated violent reactions from criminal organizations that seek to intimidate the state,” President Guillermo Lasso said on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday night.
Ecuador is facing growing violence linked to drug-trafficking gangs, which has put a huge strain on the under-resourced and overcrowded prison system.
Hundreds of inmates have been killed in deadly fights in Ecuador’s overcrowded jails in recent years.
Such is the influence of narco-politics in Ecuador, its prisons are places of power – it’s where those involved in drug offenses get locked away.
But they’re also the control centers of many of the cartels and gangs now – so when inmates don’t like what the authorities are doing, they make that known through violence and riots.
The country is less than two months away from the run-off round of presidential elections – a campaign that has been marred by violence and the assassination of a candidate.
Presidential front-runner Luisa Gonzalez said on Friday that she will wear a bulletproof vest while campaigning and will also accept the government’s offer of military protection.
Meanwhile, criminal gangs on Friday detonated explosive devices on a bridge in the coastal province of El Oro.