Dozens of people die in a prison riot in Ecuador.
At least 40 inmates were killed and more than a dozen were hurt in the riot in northern Ecuador. It's the latest bloodbath in the troubled and overcrowded prison system of the United States.
Monday, at least 40 prisoners were killed in a prison riot in northern Ecuador, according to the authorities. This was the latest in a long line of bloody fights in the violent prison system of this South American country.
The riot started early on Monday morning at the Centro de Rehabilitación Social Bellavista prison in the province of Santo Domingo, which is west of the capital city of Quito. The authorities say that more than 100 prisoners were caught as they tried to leave the prison grounds.
Images posted on social media showed a pile of bloodied bodies that had been dumped in a prison patio. Patricio Carrillo, Ecuador's interior minister, said that most of the people who died were stabbed. He also said that the riot was caused by a fight between two criminal gangs. The police said that some of the prisoners had knives and guns.
Monday afternoon, the government said that the national police and the military were in charge of the prison.
Mr. Carrillo said at a news conference, "What happened today in the Bellavista prison in the city of Santo Domingo was cruel behavior by this criminal group."
Official records show that there were more than 1,600 people in the prison at the time of the riot. This is almost double the number of people who could have lived there before the riot. Mr. Carrillo said that there were only 25 guards working in the whole prison.
This is the second deadly prison riot in Ecuador in just over a month. It shows how bad the security situation is in the country's troubled and overcrowded prison system. According to the United Nations, about 300 people died in prisons across the country last year. Also, the number of people in prison has tripled in the last 13 years, putting a lot of stress on the system.
Human Rights Watch's director for the Americas, Tamara Taraciuk Broner, said in a text message, "This is a scary reminder that Ecuador's prison system is not well run." "As long as the government doesn't make it a priority to deal with prison overcrowding and stop criminal groups from taking over prisons and extorting inmates and their families, these facilities will continue to be a place where crime and violence grow."
In February, President Guillermo Lasso started a new policy that was meant to make it easier for prisoners to get food, medical care, and work, among other things. To help with overcrowding, he also released about 5,000 prisoners who had done minor things wrong and had already served more than half of their sentence.
The U.N. thought this was a good first step.
The group said in a statement, "We hope the new policy will be put into place to help Ecuador's prison system move away from relying too much on punishment and toward preventing crime and to bring it in line with international human rights standards."
The steps were taken after a riot in Guayaquil in September killed more than 100 people and hurt 52 others. Mr. Lasso declared a three-month-long state of emergency.
Mr. Lasso wrote on Twitter on Monday, "My deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who died in the riot at the Santo Domingo prison." "This is a bad thing that came about because of gang violence."
Mr. Carrillo, the minister of the interior, said at a news conference that the likely reason for Monday's riot was that the leader of one of Ecuador's biggest criminal groups was moved from another institution. Freddy Anchundia, the leader of the criminal group, was moved to a maximum-security prison after 21 people died in another prison riot last month in El Turi, in the south of the country.
But after Mr. Anchundia got to a facility in Guayaquil, he was sent back to the prison in Santo Domingo by a judge. He was there when the riot started there on Monday morning.
Mr. Carrillo says that the same criminal groups that started the deadly riot in El Turi last month also started the riot on Monday.
Mr. Carrillo said that Ecuador's prison system has "many structural problems" that can't be fixed quickly. "What we are going through is no longer a problem of institutions or even of people. This is a state problem, and the government needs to solve it."