AMERICA/ECUADOR - Security forces regain control of prisons and free hostages

Monday, 15 January 2024 prisoners   armed groups  

Quito (Agenzia Fides) - In Ecuador, eleven police officers and a total of 201 prison officers have been released in seven prisons in the country, where they had been taken hostage by revolting prisoners (see Fides 12/1/2024). In at least one case, the men's prison in Esmeraldas, it was possible to achieve a non-violent release of the hostages through the mediation of the Catholic Church. In this case too, the prison returned to government control after the deployment of at least a thousand soldiers. The officers searched all the cells and found firearms, explosives, knives, drugs and cell phones. The situation is returning to normal in the main cities of the country, starting with Quito and Guayaquil, which were scenes of clashes triggered by various criminal gangs (see Fides 11/1/2024). A joint police and army effort has regained control of prisons, with 1,327 people arrested accused of recent violence. Since declaring a “state of war” against the gangs on January 9, authorities have carried out a total of 12,974 operations as part of the so-called Féniz plan, in which two police officers and five criminals were killed. During the same period, there were ten attacks on police infrastructure and thirteen attacks on public and private infrastructure. President Daniel Noboa wants to end the control of Ecuador's prisons by criminal gangs. In addition to regaining internal control of prisons, Noboa's strategy calls for the construction of two mega-prisons in the style of the one built by the President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele, with the bosses separated from their "soldiers". The two high-security prisons are to be built in Pastaza (Amazon) and in the coastal region of Santa Elena. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 15/1/2024)