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Bloodbaths in Ecuadorian prisons as drug gangs fight for control

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QUITO, Ecuador More than 60 prisoners were killed Tuesday in the worst prison riots in Ecuadorian history as rival gangs fought for control of growing drug trafficking countries.

Violence erupted in a series of coordinated uprisings Tuesday morning in three major prisons across the country, according to police. Only in the afternoon did the authorities regain control.

Videos recorded by the prisoners and shared on social media showed mutilated corpses with mutilated heads and arms and legs, shocking a nation unused to massacre. The gruesome images made it clear how far Ecuador has fallen into the violent spiral of organized drug crime.

This kind of thing was unimaginable in our country, said in an interview Ricardo Camacho, who once ran the Ecuadors prison system. This is a tragedy, a real shock.

The government said Tuesday’s attacks were part of a feud between rival drug gangs.

In December, the leader of a prominent local gang called Los Choneros was assassinated at a mall in the port city of Manta, which has become a major hub for cocaine trafficking in Central America.

On Tuesday, the battle shifted to prisons as Los Choneros members avenged the deaths of their leaders, said General Edmundo Moncayo, head of the Ecuadors prison system. Many of the victims, he said, were not linked to organized crime, but simply engaged in battle.

Two armed groups tried to capture the criminal leadership of the detention centers, General Moncayo said.

Although Ecuador does not grow large quantities of its own leaves, it is accompanied by the world’s two largest producers, Colombia and Peru.

Colombian cocaine traffickers and guerrillas have long used Ecuadorian territory for operations and in recent years began to divert a growing share of exports to neighboring countries as Colombian authorities increased controls at ports and airports.

Ecuador Overcrowded prisons have become increasingly violent over the past three years as drug gangs gained effective control.

The violence escalated after prisons were forced to cut their budgets under an austerity program approved by the financially struggling Ecuadorean government, said Daniela Oa, who studies human rights abuses in Ecuadorian prisons.

It is a multidimensional problem, said Mrs. Oa, emphasizing that there is now less money for psychology, sports, culture, social work all these factors that prevent a proper social rehabilitation.

In December, according to police, five inmates died in a prison brawl between members of a local drug gang. In 2019, two dozen Ecuadorian prisoners died in a series of uprisings, with two victims burned alive.

Jos Mara Len Cabrera reported by Quito, and Anatoly Kurmanaev from Caracas, Venezuela.

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