Ecuador is considering pardoning up to 2,000 inmates in order to relieve overcrowding in its detention facilities. This follows a prison riot earlier this week that left 118 people dead and more than 79 injured. The fighting took place at the Penitenciaria del Litoral en Guayaquil, Ecuador’s southernmost city. At least six people were beheaded.
The country has deployed 3,600 military and police personnel throughout the prison system to “guarantee security” in these facilities, Interior Minister Alexandra Vela announced on Friday.
Bolivar Garzon, the director of the South American country’s SNAI prison authority, stated that the elderly, women, and prisoners with disabilities and terminal illnesses will be prioritized.
According to Garzon, the country currently houses 39,000 inmates. Garzon described the riot as the latest in a long line of prison violence in the Andean country. “A battle for control by organized crime groups” sparked the riot.
Another riot occurred earlier this year in February and July, killing 79 and 22 people, respectively.
According to officials, gangs are fighting for control of the drug trafficking route. These gangs have ties to transnational criminal organizations.
The Interior Minister went on to say that forensic units had identified 41 of the victims and had returned 21 bodies to their families.
According to authorities, family members of the inmates gathered outside a morgue in Guayaquil to inquire about their loved ones.
Among the many, Eduardo Montes, 60, is anxiously awaiting word on his 25-year-old brother Vicente Montes, who was scheduled to be released in a month.
“They sent us a photo with the head of one victim, and we believe it is my brother, but we don’t know if he is really dead or alive,” Montes told Reuters.
“I’m hoping he’s alive and that they’ll let him go.”