Ecuador's armed forces raid prisons in attempt to stop gang violence

Ecuador's armed forces raid prisons in attempt to stop gang violence
Fecha de publicación: 
15 January 2024
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Soldiers and police intervened on Sunday in several prisons in Ecuador in search of weapons, ammunition and explosives and to restore order amid an unprecedented surge of violence in the country.

Thousands of military and police officers raided several prisons in Ecuador on Sunday in search of weapons, ammunition and explosives and to restore order after a week of incidents and detentions of more than a hundred officials, amid an unprecedented spiral of violence in the Andean country.

The operation comes a day after President Daniel Noboa and the official body that controls the prisons announced the release of nearly 170 prison officers and administrative staff who had been held by inmates for six days.

One prison officer died in the south of the country.

Some 1,100 uniformed members of the security bloc, made up of the armed forces and the police, intervened in the early hours of the morning in the prison in the coastal city of Esmeraldas, in the north of Ecuador and one of the most dangerous, the military institution reported on the social network X, formerly Twitter.

Images released by the Armed Forces show more than a thousand inmates of the prison lying face down on the ground with their hands clasped behind their backs, while they are being guarded in a courtyard by agents.

Control is supported from the air by a helicopter overflight.

As the operation continued, it was reported that so far explosives, electrical appliances and liquor had been seized.

The operation was replicated in other prisons such as Cuenca, in the south of the country, where one of the largest prisons is located, and where "total control has been regained," the message said.

Meanwhile, in Machala, the coastal city where a prison officer died the day before in a shootout between the security forces and inmates, a security contingent of 800 police and military personnel entered with tanks in the early hours of the morning.

There, the prisoners remained in their underwear, sitting with their backs to the wall of a courtyard where a large wolf is displayed as a mural.

Long weapons were seized in the centre, the number of which was not specified.

Ecuador was declared in internal armed conflict on Tuesday by a decree issued by President Noboa, in which he described more than 20 criminal groups operating in the country as "terrorists."

The wave of violence began a week ago with the disappearance from a Guayaquil jail of drug kingpin Adolfo Macias, alias Fito, leader of Los Choneros, with links to Mexico's Sinaloa cartel.

After that, and with the declaration of a state of emergency, a spiral of violence was ignited that put Ecuadorians on edge.

Detonations of explosive devices on bridges, and vehicles, arson attacks, riots, kidnappings, detentions and the takeover of a live television station were all acts of unprecedented violence in the Andean country.

The state of emergency has so far resulted in 1,105 arrests, 94 of them for "terrorism", and the dismantling of 28 criminal groups, according to the latest government report.

Five gang members have been killed, but it is not known whether they are among the 14 reported dead in the Guayaquil area.

No national death toll has been released for the past week.

Ecuadorian authorities have acknowledged that the prison system is one of the main axes in the insecurity crisis facing the nation.

Since 2021, more than a dozen prison massacres between gangs have left around 450 inmates murdered.

According to the official version, all kinds of crimes such as murder, hired assassinations, extortion and others are committed from these centres.

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