At least 15 prisoners were killed in a prison in the Ecuadorian city of Latacunga on Monday, the country’s SNAI prison agency reported, and another 21 were injured in the latest incident of deadly jail violence in the Andean country.
The government of conservative President Guillermo Lasso attributes prison violence to fights between gangs over control of territory and drug trafficking routes.
Authorities are working on identifying the bodies, officials said, while Oswaldo Coronel, governor of the Cotopaxi province, which includes Latacunga, told reporters security had been restored.
“At the moment, according to the forensic information from the national police, 15 people have died [and] 21 people have been injured, of which 14 have already been evacuated to hospitals in the city of Latacunga,” the governor said.
Last year, 316 prisoners died during riots in various jails across Ecuador.
In July, 13 prisoners were killed at a prison in Santo Domingo, just two months after violence at the same institution killed 43 in May.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said Ecuador’s prison system is blighted by state abandonment and the absence of a comprehensive policy, as well as poor conditions for inmates.
The country’s prisons house about 33,500 people and are 11.3 percent beyond maximum capacity, according to official figures.
Last year, Ecuador had a murder rate of 14 per 100,000, nearly double that of 2020. In a bid to improve the living conditions in its prisons, President Guillermo Lasso launched the country’s first inmate census in August.