A “state of emergency” has been declared in Ecuador after violent clashes between prison gangs left 116 people dead, with several of them beheaded or cremated.
On Tuesday morning, the two rival gangs inside Litoral Penitentiary, Guayaquil – Los Lobos and Los Choneros – started fighting for control of one of the prison’s pavilions.
They were armed with “firearms and explosives” according to the prison service, and supposedly have links to Mexican drug cartels.
Locals shared horrifying photos of inmates at the prison roof holding knives and guns. The booming sound of gunfire and explosives can be heard in videos.
The National Police and Ecuadorian Armed Forces managed to regain control of the prison after five hours, and initial reports put the number of dead at 24, with eight having been beheaded.
As the prison was being opened by police, that number quickly climbed to 35. Guillermo Lasso, Ecuadorian President, confirmed today that the number has risen to 116 with more than 80 people being injured.
It may well continue to rise as the search continues.
At today’s press conference President Lasso decreed a “state of emergency” in the country’s entire prison system for 60 days, which suspends normal political procedures and allows the government to do almost whatever it deems necessary to solve the crisis.
He also said that he would travel to the city of Guayaquil to preside over a security committee and “coordinate necessary actions to control the emergency”.
Around midday on Wednesday local time, the families of those in Litoral Penitentiary congregated outside the prison, desperate to see if their relatives were among the deceased.
After 79 people were killed in three Ecuadorian prisons, including one in Guayaquil in February of this year, this is the latest in a series of events.
After violent clashes, President Lasso declared a similar emergency in July.
Just two weeks ago, the prison service said that Litoral Penitentiary was attacked by a drone as part of “a war between international cartels”.
Recent reports suggest that Los Lobos, and Los Choneros may have links to rival Mexican drug cartels.
Ecuador is used to smuggle drugs from South America northwards. Guayaquil and other coastal cities are especially lucrative for international cartels. They often turn to local gangs in order to run their businesses.
For the latest breaking news and stories from across the globe from the Daily Star, sign up for our newsletter by clicking here.