At least 24 inmates were killed and another 48 were injured in clashes Tuesday at the Litoral Penitentiary located in the coastal city of Guayaquil, in southwestern Ecuador, authorities and the National Police said. A police and military operation managed to regain control of the Guayaquil Regional prison after five hours, according to a statement from Ecuador’s prison service.
Speaking to local media, Pablo Arosemena, the governor of the province of Guayas, whose capital is Guayaquil, confirmed the number of victims in Tuesday morning’s melee in different parts of the prison. The regional police commander, General Fausto Buenano, said that toll included prisoners shot to death and killed by detonating hand grenades. The clashes took place between gangs fighting for control of drug trafficking and other crimes planned inside the prison. The violence involved gunfire, knives and explosions and was caused by a dispute between the “Los Lobos” and “Los Choneros” prison gangs, officials said. Television images showed inmates firing from the windows of the prison amid smoke and the detonation of firearms and explosives. The Guayas state government posted images on its Twitter account showing six cooks being evacuated from one of the prison’s wings. President Guillermo Lasso re-tweeted an announcement from the prison bureau saying order “has been restored at the Littoral Penitentiary after the Tuesday incidents.”
Ecuador’s prison system has become a battle ground between prisoners linked to Mexican drug gangs — mainly the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels. Guayaquil, Ecuador’s main port city, is a major hub for shipping South American cocaine to points north, especially the United States. This was the deadliest such incident since February, when a series of coordinated riots at four prisons left 79 inmates dead and some 20 people wounded, including police officers.