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Death toll in Ecuador jail riots reaches 31 as govt. declares state of emergency

This picture shows Mayor Agustin Intriago's coffin draped with an Ecuadoran flag at his funeral procession in Manta, Ecuador on July 24, 2023. [Photo by AP]

The death toll from a wave of jail riots in Ecuador’s most dangerous prison has reached 31, authorities say, hours as the government declared a 60-day state of emergency for the country's prisons.

The development came late on Tuesday after some 2,700 soldiers were deployed to take control of the over-crowded Guayas 1 prison in the port city of Guayaquil.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the violence between rival gangs also left 14 wounded, before the government took “total control” over the situation at Guayas 1, which houses more than 5,600 inmates.

“With effort, commitment, and continuous work, we will move forward and recover the peace that organized crime has taken from us,” President Guillermo Lasso wrote on Twitter. “We have to be more united than ever to win this battle.”

Earlier, Guillermo ordered the military forces to assert control over Ecuador’s prisons, saying in a decree that inmates in Guayaquil used firearms during the unrest and set fire to facilities using gas tanks.

According to the decree, at least one of the dead in the violence had been beheaded.

Lasso declared an earlier state of emergency in three provinces on Monday after a shooting left two people dead, including Agustín Intriago, the mayor of Manta.

“No mother should have to bury her children and no child should grow up without their parent, much less because of a criminal attack,” Lasso wrote on Twitter. “Today Ecuador is in mourning.”

El Estado pone orden en la Penitenciaria del Litoral porque la fuerza coercitiva jamás se doblegará. Hoy, en la madrugada, iniciamos la intervención, luego de emitir el estado de excepción en el sistema carcelario con el Decreto 823.#NuestroTrabajoContinúa

— Guillermo Lasso (@LassoGuillermo) July 25, 2023

The shooting took place on Sunday in the port city of Manta, where Intriago, 38, had recently begun a second term as mayor in May.

"The mission is to restore order in this detention center in order to protect the lives, health, and safety of inmates," armed forces commander General Nelson Proano said while speaking to reporters in front of Guayas 1.

He said that explosions heard from within the complex were "detonations made by the elite groups of the armed forces."

Lasso added that a suspect in the shooting has been taken into custody while investigations were underway.

Back in September 2021, Guayaquil's La Litoral penitentiary witnessed one of the deadliest prison riots in the country’s history, with approximately 120 people killed.

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