Prisoners in Ecuador’s Cuenca Penitentiary Hold 50 Guards and 7 Police Officers Hostage
Ecuador Prison Crisis: Hostages Taken in Cuenca Penitentiary
A group of inmates at a prison in Cuenca, Ecuador, have seized 50 guards and seven police officers as hostages, demanding an end to the transfer of prisoners to other facilities.
The hostage situation began on Thursday morning, when the prisoners took control of a section of the penitentiary and barricaded themselves with their captives.
The Interior Minister, Juan Zapata, said the government was concerned about the safety of the officials and was working to resolve the crisis peacefully.
“We are in permanent contact with the authorities of the prison system and the police command to monitor the situation and take the necessary actions,” he said at a press conference in Quito.
He added that the government had sent a commission of human rights defenders and mediators to Cuenca to facilitate dialogue with the inmates.
The Motive Behind the Hostage-Taking
According to the National Service of Comprehensive Attention to Adults Deprived of Liberty and Adolescent Offenders (SNAI), the hostage-taking was a retaliation for a security operation that took place on Wednesday at another prison in Latacunga, where hundreds of soldiers and police officers searched for weapons, ammunition, and explosives.
However, Zapata later said that the inmates had also expressed their discontent with the transfer of prisoners to other facilities, which they claimed violated their rights and increased their vulnerability to violence.
Ecuador has been facing a wave of prison violence since last year when rival gangs with links to Colombian and Mexican cartels started a bloody turf war for control of drug trafficking routes.
More than 430 inmates have been killed in massacres, riots, and clashes in prisons across the country, often leaving behind gruesome scenes of burned and dismembered bodies.
The government has declared a state of emergency in the prison system and announced measures to improve security, infrastructure, and rehabilitation programs.
However, human rights groups have denounced the overcrowding, corruption, and lack of resources that plague Ecuador’s prisons, which house more than 40,000 inmates, almost double their capacity.
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