Ecuador has seen eight prison riots since February 2021 that have killed about 400 inmates.
Ten inmates were killed in a riot at a prison in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, which authorities said followed the government’s decision to transfer three crime bosses to a maximum security facility.
The prison riots and killings are the latest challenge to the country’s prison system, which has killed around 400 inmates in gang-related violence since last year, the prison authority said.
The latest riots erupted at El Inca prison on Friday, shortly after the government announced it would transfer inmates it suspected were masterminds of previous prison riots to a maximum security prison.
One of the prisoners whose relocation sparked the violence, Los Lobos gang leader Jonathan Bermudez, was responsible for previous killings at El Inca, according to a statement from the president’s office.
The prison authorities said that “members of this criminal organization[Los Lobos]took violent reprisals” for the transfer from Bermudez to another prison.
Police Commander Victor Herrera told reporters the prison was secured, with heavy security forces deployed as forensic experts removed the bodies of those killed. Herrera said the cause of death “appears to be strangulation.”
Since February 2021, Ecuador has seen eight prison massacres that have killed around 400 people; Many of the victims were beheaded or burned.
The last gang-led prison riot took place in Quito on November 8, killing five inmates.
Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso said the country would not be intimidated by gang leaders.
“We told them our hand would not tremble,” Lasso said on Twitter of Friday’s transfer of gang leaders, warning of “the same fate for those who continue their attempts to disrupt the peace among Ecuadorians.”
Advertimos que nos dejaremos intimidar por mafias narcotraficantes, ahora tendrán que enfrentar todo el rigor de la ley. pic.twitter.com/eHBcrvjdPU
— Guillermo Lasso (@LassoGuillermo) November 18, 2022
Lasso also thanked law enforcement for restoring order to the prison and fighting what he described as “narco-terrorist leaders.”
Earlier this month, Lasso’s government relocated about 2,400 inmates, sparking a riot by gang members on the streets who staged shootings and detonated car bombs at gas stations and police stations.
Eight people were killed in the attacks in the port city of Guayaquil, including five police officers.
Lasso responded to these attacks by declaring a state of emergency and a night curfew in the provinces of Guayas, Esmeraldas and Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas. He also deployed troops to the three provinces, home to a third of Ecuador’s 18 million people.
Once a relatively peaceful neighbor to leading cocaine producers Colombia and Peru, Ecuador has evolved from a drug transit route into a vital distribution center plagued by drug violence.
Authorities blame the violent crime spate on rival gangs linked to Mexican cartels.