QUITO, Ecuador (AP) – Sixty-two prisoners died in prison riots in three cities in Ecuador, as a result of fighting between rival gangs and an escape attempt, officials said on Tuesday.
Prison director Edmundo Moncayo told a news conference that 800 police stations helped to regain control of the facilities. Hundreds of tactical unit officers have been deployed since the clashes began Monday night.
Moncayo said that two groups were trying to obtain “criminal leadership within detention centers” and that the clashes were precipitated by a search for weapons carried out on Monday by police officers.
Photographs and videos on social media show alleged prisoners beheaded and dismembered in pools of blood.
Deadly prison riots have occurred relatively frequently in recent years in Ecuador, whose prisons were designed for some 27,000 inmates but are home to about 38,000.
President Lenín Moreno tweeted that he ordered the Ministry of Defense to “strictly control arms, ammunition and explosives on the outer perimeter of prisons” as a result of this week’s riots.
Moncayo said 33 died in Cuenca prison, in southern Ecuador, 21 in the city of Guayaquil, on the Pacific coast, and eight in the city of Latacunga, in the center.
Moncayo said that about 70% of the country’s prison population lives in the centers where the disturbances occurred.
The government minister, Patricio Pazmiño, sent a tweet accusing “the joint action of criminal organizations to generate violence in the country’s prisons”, but added: “We are managing actions to regain control”.