The death toll from riots in one of Ecuador’s biggest prisons rose to 116, with President Guillermo Lasso saying on Wednesday he would send additional security forces and free up funds to avoid a repeat.
Another 80 inmates were injured during Tuesday night’s clashes in Guayas province’s Penitenciaria del Littoral, which has been the scene of bloody fighting between gangs for control of the prison in recent months.
“It is unfortunate that criminal groups are trying to turn prisons into battlegrounds for power disputes,” Lasso told reporters in Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil. “I ask God to bless Ecuador and that we may avoid further loss of human life.”
Tuesday’s clash was the deadliest violence ever in Ecuador’s penitentiary system. Similar clashes took place in different prisons across the country in February and July 2021. At least 79 people were killed in February’s violence and at least 22 people lost their lives in July.
Dozens of people came to the jail to seek information about relatives and demand accountability from the officials responsible for the safety of the prisoners. The government increased military presence outside the facility. Lasso said the state would assist the families of the dead and injured prisoners.
The South American country’s prosecutor’s office said earlier on Wednesday that six prisoners killed in the Penitenciaria del Littoral had been beheaded.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has previously condemned the violence, and Human Rights Watch has urged the Ecuadorian government to conduct a thorough investigation into the prison violence and bring those responsible to justice.
In August Lasso said the government would provide more money to build new wards for the overcrowded prison system and install new equipment to improve security.