At least 24 prisoners were killed in a battle between inmates equipped with firearms and grenades at a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, authorities said Tuesday.
The National Bureau of Prisons (SNAI) confirmed the death toll in a statement and updated a previous number of wounded from 42 to 48.
The regional police commander, General Fausto Buenano, said the balance included prisoners shot to death and killed by hand grenade detonations.
President Guillermo Lasso again tweeted an announcement from the prison office saying that “order has been restored at the Litoral Penitentiary after the incidents on Tuesday.”
Ecuador’s prison system has become a battlefield between inmates linked to Mexican drug gangs, mainly the Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación cartels.
Guayaquil, Ecuador’s main port city, is an important hub for the shipment of South American cocaine to points north, especially to the United States.
Last week, the police confiscated two pistols, a revolver, some 500 rounds of ammunition, a hand grenade, several knives, two sticks of dynamite and homemade explosives in one of the prisons in Guayaquil.
Two weeks ago, Guayaquil’s No. 4 prison was attacked by drones, part of “a war between international cartels,” prison authorities said. There were no casualties in the attack.
Ecuador’s prison system has around 60 facilities designed for 29,000 inmates, but is burdened by overcrowding and a shortage of staff.
The country’s human rights ombudsman said there were 103 murders in prisons in 2020.
Twenty-seven inmates died in prison riots at two prisons in July, in an incident that forced the government to declare a state of emergency.