The last confrontation between prisoners in Ecuador began on Friday at seven in the afternoon and left 68 dead. 48 hours later, after a weekend of tense silence, there is still no response from the Government to contain the violence in the Guayaquil Penitentiary, the largest and most convulsive in the country. More than 320 inmates have died in riots this year alone and, of those, 209 have occurred during Guillermo Lasso’s administration. The Ecuadorian president was going to make an “important announcement” on Saturday, according to his Communication Secretariat. However, he has not had any public appearances so far.
The relatives of the murdered prisoners stood with indignation in front of the morgue, awaiting the identification of the bodies. According to the latest official report, only 34 of the 68 deceased have been identified, because some corpses are dismembered or completely burned. They claim the State for not guaranteeing security inside the prison and for not having acted on time, despite the fact that the inmates broadcast live, on social networks for hours on Friday night, from inside the prison, begging to be saved.
This Monday a meeting of President Lasso with the heads of all the powers of the State has been called with the aim of reaching a “national agreement” to face the prison crisis. The strategy to control the prison system, which has been in a state of emergency since September 29, is to mobilize the military inside the prison. But the Constitution, ratified by pronouncements of the Constitutional Court, only allows the Armed Forces to intervene in the outer perimeter and for the Police to act when there are excesses in the pavilions. The Government claims that this is insufficient.
“This is a wake-up call to the institutions of the Ecuadorian State, especially to the Constitutional Court. We need suitable constitutional tools to protect the population, restore order in prisons and fight the mafias that profit from chaos, ”Lasso posted on Twitter on Saturday. Instead of a public appearance, as he had announced, he posted that argument on social media as an explanation for the difficulty in keeping prison coexistence at bay.
The latest riots – four serious ones in 2020 alone, with 78, 22, 119 and 68 dead – have exposed the vulnerability of the prison system and the prison facilities themselves. Above all, in the Guayaquil Penitentiary. The inmates have short and long-range weapons, also explosives that they easily obtain from the outside, mobile phones, the internet and, in short, control over what happens inside the fence. “The inmates of three pavilions – there are around 700 in each building – roamed freely and with weapons,” said the general commander of the police, Tanya Varela, on Saturday to give an account of the impossible of the operation to appease the massacre.
Varela and the governor of Guayas, the province where the prison is located, attributed the new outbreak of violence to a clash between gangs after one of the leaders had been released. For this reason, the Government wants to incorporate the military and, for this, the president meets this Monday with the heads of the National Court, the Constitutional Court, the Council of the Judiciary, the Attorney General’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, of the National Assembly and the Comptroller’s Office, together with the entire military and police leadership and their ministers of Defense and Government.
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The appointment is preceded by two significant changes of authorities: the head of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, the General Commander of the Land Force and the person in charge of the prison system. The first, Jorge Cabrera, resigned on Sunday night and the Social Rehabilitation portfolio that is in charge of prisons returned to the hands of Fausto Cobo, who left office on the same day of the September riot that left 119 victims.
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