Ecuador is experiencing an unprecedented prison tragedy. At least 44 people deprived of their liberty died this Monday in the Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas prison, about 150 kilometers from Quito. The number of victims is above the previous shock in April in which 20 detainees died.
Behind the massacre are two usual rival gangs: the criminal organizations called “Los Lobos” and “R7”, according to statements by the Minister of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo.RELATED
The first report reported that this massacre, which began at 1:30 local time, was mainly carried out with knives. However, in the maximum security pavilion where the events took place, four rifles, three pistols, a revolver and four grenades were found, according to the National Comprehensive Care Service, the state agency in charge of prisons. In the midst of the massacre, at least 220 prisoners escaped. So far, the authorities have only recaptured 112 of them.
If in 2020, with the death of 46 people inside prisons, the situation was dramatic; in 2021, with 316 detainees dead, the situation worsened even more. This 2022 has recorded 64 fatalities.
Prior to these last two massacres, the president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, was quick to celebrate that intra-prison deaths had been reduced by more than 90% in the first three months of the year. But the figures jumped through the air in the last two weeks.
The event occurred while the president was on an official visit to Israel, where one of his objectives is to obtain security cooperation to deal with the violence of criminal organizations.
“We will not give in to the mafias. Our commitment to restore order in the prisons is firm”, wrote Lasso from Israel to announce the immediate transfer of six prisoners identified by the authorities as the alleged leaders and responsible for the massacre.
Until the end of 2021 there were more than 36,000 inmates, almost 40% without sentence, in 36 centers. Overcrowding reached 62% in prisons like the one in Guayaquil. To solve the prison crisis, the government plans to grant some 5,000 pardons to prisoners convicted of minor crimes and develop the country’s first human rights policy towards the prison population.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said Tuesday that the latest massacre shows the urgency of reforming the criminal justice and prison systems to resolve this protracted crisis.
“I must emphasize that the State’s responsibility for the safety of all persons in its custody creates a presumption of State responsibility for these deaths,” he said.
Last February, the Ecuadorian Government launched a public policy for the social rehabilitation of prisoners, developed with technical support from the UN Human Rights Office.
“The government must also consider a roadmap that we proposed to guarantee security in prisons, improve the conditions of inmates and guarantee better prison management, which includes fighting corruption,” Bachelet said.