Ecuador’s president extends state of emergency for prisons

FILE PHOTO: The Penitenciaria del Litoral, one of Ecuador's largest prisons, is pictured after prisoners died in a riot, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Vicente Gaibor del Pino

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) – President Guillermo Lasso renewed a state of emergency throughout Ecuador’s prison system on Monday, extending it for 30 days as the country grapples to control jail violence which has left scores of inmates dead.

Lasso first imposed a state of emergency in penitentiaries at the end of September due to violence at the Penitenciaria del actions.Litoral prison, where fighting between criminal gangs in the last two months has left more than 180 prisoners dead.

Ecuador’s armed forces will continue to support police in controlling prisons.

Following the most recent incident at the Penitenciaria del Litoral, located in the city of Guayaquil, a combined force of 1,000 police officers and soldiers entered the prison.

The Constitutional Court has questioned the measures rolled out across prisons, saying that the crisis will require more than temporary emergency actions.

The gangs operating inside prisons are linked to drug trafficking, authorities say.

The decree to extends the state of emergency includes a ban on prisoners receiving mail that has not been read by security forces first, among other measures.

Ecuador’s prison system counts more than 37,000 inmates behind bars, with just 1,646 security staff, according to the government.

Lasso is pushing a plan to reduce prison violence, which includes pacifying gangs, pardoning criminals in special cases, repatriating foreign prisoners, and legal reform.

A week ago Lasso also extended a state of emergency to combat crime across the country.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia,; Writing by Oliver Griffin, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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