The Ecuador government has announced that they will be pardoning almost 2,000 prisoners in order to curb the issue of overcrowded detention centers after the appalling prison riot that killed 118 inmates and injured 79. 

In a statement on Friday, the Director of the SNAI prison authority Bolivar Garzon said that the country’s prisons are currently detaining up to 3900 inmates and the government would be pardoning prisoners adding that the elderly and female prisoners along with inmates having disabilities and terminal illness would be prioritized.

The prison riot

Earlier in the deadliest prison riot of Ecuador’s history on Tuesday, as many as 118 inmates were killed and 79 injured at the Penitenciaria del Litoral in the southern city of Guayaquil.

Ecuador has seen several outbreaks of violence in its prisons in recent months, as officials say gangs working with transnational criminal groups are battling over drug trafficking routes.

In February, Seventy-nine prisoners died when simultaneous riots broke out in three prisons, while in July, 27 prisoners were killed at the Litoral facility. In September, a penitentiary was attacked by drones, but no fatalities were reported.

Identification issue

Interior Minister Alexandra Vela on Friday reported that forensic units had identified 41 of the victims from Tuesday’s bout of violence, and had delivered the bodies of 21 of the victims to their families.

Dozens of inmates’ relatives have gathered outside a Guayaquil morgue seeking information about their loved ones. Authorities said that at least six victims were decapitated.

Henry Coral, a police official, asked family members to help speed up the identification of bodies by telling authorities about any tattoos, scars, or other distinguishing features of prisoners believed to have been killed. Some bodies were mutilated and some burned, making identification harder.

The leaders

On Wednesday, Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso declared an emergency in the prison system which gave the government powers that include deploying police and soldiers inside detention centers.

Lasso said, “It is regrettable that the prisons are being turned into territories for power disputes by criminal gangs,” adding that he would act with “absolute firmness” to regain control of the Litoral prison and prevent the violence from spreading to other facilities.

The former president of Ecuador’s National Rehabilitation Council Ledy Zuniga said, “In the history of the country, there has not been an incident similar or close to this one.” 

Zuniga who was also the former minister of justice in 2016 said that she felt remorse about the lack of steps been taken following the deadly prison riot in February that could have avoided the massacre.

The story was filed by the News Desk.
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