Desperate relatives seek answers after Ecuador prison riot

By: News Team

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Relatives of inmates at an Ecuadorian prison desperately awaited answers on Tuesday, wondering if their loved ones were among those killed and injured, following a Monday riot at the facility that killed at least 15 prisoners.

While the families waited, in the morning the disturbances began again in the Cotopaxi prison, one of the largest in Ecuador, leaving another 11 prisoners injured, according to the SNAI prison authority.

The SNAI increased the number of prisoners reported as injured on Monday to 33, from an initial 21, bringing the total so far to 44.

Monday’s riot is the latest incident in a recent spate of violence in Ecuador’s prison system, which the government says is due to infighting between gangs over territory and drug trafficking routes.

Inés Iguasni, a 33-year-old housewife, demanded to know what happened to her husband, who said he would be released on the day of the riot.”I’ve been here since yesterday, they broke the news of this shooting, since then I haven’t heard anything,” Iguasni said amid tears and shouts from other relatives. “Why do so many weapons enter (the prison) if they search us for everything?”

“We are afraid that something is still happening in there,” he said.

At least 316 inmates died during riots in various prisons in Ecuador last year, according to official data.

The governor of Cotopaxi, which includes the city of Latacunga, Oswaldo Coronel, said that the outbreak of violence on Tuesday forced the re-implementation of security protocols.

“At the moment there is calm, that does not mean that we are going to lower the alert level, that is still activated,” he explained to journalists, without issuing further details.

Some 12 bodies have already been identified, according to Coronel.

Authorities said the dead may include Leandro Norero, the defendant in a controversial money laundering case that was awaiting trial.

Some 350 policemen were deployed to control the incident on Monday, the government said, while 250 soldiers remained outside the prison.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said that Ecuador’s prison system is affected by the abandonment of the State and the absence of a comprehensive policy, as well as by the poor conditions of inmates.

The country’s prisons house some 33,500 people and exceed their maximum capacity by 11.3%, according to official figures.

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