November 29, 2022

Ecuadoran police say 200 prisoners recaptured after prison riot

Relatives of an inmate embrace at a coroner's office in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, Ecuador, on May 10, 2022, a day after a prison riot left at least 44 inmates dead


Relatives of an inmate embrace at a coroner’s office in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, Ecuador, on May 10, 2022, a day after a prison riot left at least 44 inmates dead – Copyright AFP SAUL LOEB

Ecuadoran police on Tuesday said 200 convicts that escaped following a deadly prison riot have been recaptured, with another 20 still at large.

At least 44 people died after a fight broke out on Monday between the rival Los Lobos and R7 gangs inside the Bellavista prison in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, in the center of Ecuador some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Quito.

Authorities initially said that 112 inmates had been captured but another 108 had got away.

“A total of 220 citizens escaped yesterday and at this moment we have recaptured 200,” said police chief of operations Geovanny Ponce.

He said the government was offering up to $3,000 for information leading to the capture of the remaining 20 fugitives.

Distraught relatives of prisoners waited for news outside the Bellavista prison on Tuesday.

Ponce said 41 of the victims had been identified, and two of them were Venezuelan.

Soldiers were deployed to the area to help search for escapees.

AFP journalists at the scene saw security forces rounding up around 80 people allegedly recaptured after fleeing the prison.

“They’re not giving us any information. They say that young men escaped to save their lives,” said Leisi Zambrano, who was waiting for news of her brother.

“There are many mothers who still have not received any news about their loved ones. They don’t even know if they are alive,” added the 48-year-old.

Zambrano said she had rushed to the prison with other family members as soon as she heard about the riot.

“We heard prisoners calling for help, asking that we don’t let them die,” said Zambrano.

“It was a massacre inside.”

Shocking videos of the riot aftermath have been circulated online showing a pile of bloody, mutilated bodies in a common room and another with corpses littering prison corridors alongside mattresses that showed signs of having been lit.

Prior to this one, around 350 inmates had been killed in five separate prison riots since February 2021.

Just last month, at least 20 inmates died inside the El Turi prison in Cuenca, southern Ecuador.

President Guillermo Lasso insists the problem inside the facilities mirrors that outside, where drug gangs are vying for control of trafficking routes.