Controversial transfers as a possible cause of the latest massacre in a prison in Ecuador

Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas (Ecuador), May 10 (EFE) .- The prison of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, in the north-central part of Ecuador, has not yet recovered from the bloodbath that it experienced in the early hours of Monday, when 44 prisoners were massacred and killed in a clash between rival gangs, while another 20 are still on the run.

At the end of this Tuesday, two bodies from this massacre were still to be identified, the latest in a series of bloody riots between rival gangs that are vying for control of the prisons and that have claimed the lives of more than 400 inmates since 2020. 63 of them only in this 2022.

From early in the morning, the relatives of the victims crowded at the door of the Santo Domingo morgue to try to recognize the remains of their relatives, amid harsh scenes of tears and pain, as Efe was able to witness.

Meanwhile, the security forces managed to recapture this Tuesday another 88 prisoners who had escaped during the riot, with what are now 200 prisoners trapped out of the 220 who escaped, but 20 remain unaccounted for.

This latest massacre has opened a deep controversy in the country about the causes that triggered the extreme violence inside this prison, located about 150 kilometers west of Quito.

CONTROVERSIAL TRANSFERS

Everything points to the fact that, as the Minister of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo, has already advanced, the massacre in Santo Domingo is closely linked to the previous massacre —which took place on April 3 in the prison of the southern Andean city of Cuenca—, where in a confrontation Similarly, 20 inmates died, while at least 10 others were injured.

In both episodes, the authorities assure that the same criminal organizations that rival each other, calling themselves Los Lobos and R7, are behind it.

Although Carrillo attributed the Santo Domingo massacre to the arrival at this prison of Freddy Anchundia, one of the presumed leaders of the R7 that the authorities point to as the cause of the Cuenca massacre, many more prisoners were transferred from Cuenca to Santo Domingo after the massacre of April 3.

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The director of the National Comprehensive Care Service (SNAI) for persons deprived of liberty, Pablo Ramírez, acknowledged in statements to the Teleamazonas channel that there were 124 prisoners transferred from the Cuenca prison to the Santo Domingo prison in April.

These transfers took place in fulfillment of habeas corpus granted by the Ecuadorian Justice, at the request of the prisoners themselves, despite the opposition of the SNAI, the body in charge of administering and guarding Ecuadorian prisons.

This aggravated the overcrowding of the Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas prison, a prison with a capacity for 916 inmates, but which at the end of April exceeded 1,600, which represents an overcrowding of 76%, according to SNAI data.

However, the Provincial Court of Justice of Azuay, whose capital is Cuenca, rejected in a statement that its decisions had led to the massacre in Santo Domingo and stated that the only culprit for the prison crisis is the SNAI for having lost control of the prisons and allow lethal weapons to enter.

CUENCA DOES NOT WANT MORE PRISONERS

Meanwhile, in Cuenca, given the rumors of a possible new riot, the security of the prison was reinforced with a detachment of police and military, as well as ambulances outside.

At the same time, the mayor of Cuenca, Pedro Palacios, strongly opposed the arrival of more prisoners to the penitentiary center located on the outskirts of his city.

«Cuenca is respected. We are going to carry out all the necessary actions so that the peace, security and freedom of the Cuencan families are taken care of,» he said in a statement where he called a citizen assembly for Tuesday afternoon to demand «no more deceit or false promises.

«The latest riot on April 3 shows that it does not have the conditions to house more people deprived of their liberty or to guarantee the minimum security conditions to protect the surrounding areas and, of course, our city,» Palacios said.

BACHELET HOLDS THE STATE RESPONSIBLE

This situation has not gone unnoticed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who on Tuesday pointed to the State as responsible for the deaths for being people in her custody and demanded to investigate the facts and reform the Justice system and the penitentiary

Recently, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a report in which it urged the Ecuadorian government to regain control of the prisons, provide decent conditions for prisoners and develop crime prevention policies where incarceration does not prevail.

According to the director of the SNAI, there are currently 33,000 prisoners in the 36 centers that Ecuador has, with a total capacity of just over 30,000.

To solve the prison crisis, the Government of Ecuador seeks to hire 1,400 new prison officers, grant around 5,000 pardons to prisoners convicted of minor crimes and implement the country’s first human rights policy towards the prison population.

(c) EFE Agency