A day after a mass escape from a prison in Ecuador, the police announced the arrest of 200 escaped prisoners. Head of operations Geovanny Ponce said on Tuesday that out of a total of 220 fugitives, “200 have already been recaptured”. The outbreak followed fighting at the Bellavista detention center in Santo Domingo de los Ts├íchilas province, which killed 44 inmates.

According to police, members of rival gangs attacked each other with knives, injuring ten prisoners and one police officer. In the meantime, “complete calm” has been restored, officials from the AFP news agency said during a visit to the prison. Traces of fire and a hole from which the prisoners are said to have escaped could still be seen on the walls.

Dozens of relatives, mostly women, crowded the prison gates, waiting for information about their relatives. Armed soldiers were deployed in the area. In an attempt to prevent further violence, six Bellavista gang leaders were transferred to two maximum security prisons.

In the chronically overcrowded prisons of the South American country, there are always riots, which are often triggered by rival drug gangs. Since February 2021, nearly 400 inmates have been killed in a series of bloody riots in Ecuador’s prisons. Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso recently issued a package of measures that include pardons and more money for prisons to get the situation under control.

Located between the major drug producers Colombia and Peru, Ecuador is an important hub for drug smuggling to the US and Europe. In the country, the number of drug gangs and with them the violence is steadily increasing. In the first four months of the year there were already 1200 murders.

According to media reports, the background to the fighting was clashes between members of the Los Lobos gang and their R7 splinter group. Accordingly, a member of R7 had been transferred from another prison to the Santo Domingo detention center. This is said to have triggered the riots.

Prisoner mutinies and fights between hostile gangs are frequent in Ecuador. Over 200 people lost their lives last year. As a result, the federal police and armed forces took control of the prisons in the South American country. Like almost everywhere in Latin America, prisons in Ecuador are overcrowded.



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