QUITO, April 15 (Reuters) – At least 12 inmates were killed in an Ecuadorian jail amid a new clash between gangs, the SNAI prison agency said on Saturday, in the latest chapter in the South American nation’s prison violence.
The confrontation occurred on Friday in the prison known as La Penitenciaría, in the city of Guayaquil, one of the country’s most dangerous.
Ecuador has been plagued by prison riots since 2021, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of inmates, which the government attributes to clashes between drug gangs fighting for territory and control.
“Through the use of technology, it was established 12 people died,” SNAI told reporters.
The entity added that the prosecutor’s office and the police are in the prison for the identification of the dead bodies.
Last year, a United Nations delegation found that the violence in Ecuador’s prisons was caused by years of state neglect of the penitentiary system.
President Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former banker facing impeachment hearings on corruption charges he denies, has struggled to address the growing violence in Ecuador, a country used as a transit point for cocaine moving to Europe and the United States.
Earlier this month, Ecuador’s government amended a decree to allow the civilian use of firearms and pepper spray, citing rising insecurity in the South American country.
Friday’s clash follows the murder of three female prison officers outside the prison in Guayaquil. This week, SNAI reported that six prisoners were found hanged in one of the wards of La Penitenciaría.
Lasso has increased the presence of the security forces and has repeatedly declared an emergency in the prison system in an attempt to control the violence.