‘All systems normal’ at Turi prison following hostage release; Gov’t criticized for lack of information
According to the government, all operations of Cuenca’s Turi prison have “returned to normal” following the release Friday of 44 prison guards and police officers. Azuay Province Governor Consuelo Orellana said most prison staff have returned to work and that the daily schedule has been resumed.
As she did following Thursday’s news conference, Orellana cut short reporters’ questions, saying more information was forthcoming. “The important thing is that all of the prison staff who were detained are now free and they suffered no mistreatment,” she said.
Left unanswered were questions about possible punishment for the kidnappers and how similar situations will be prevented in the future. One reporter’s question about the widespread availability of cell phones within the prison and communication between inmates at other prisons was ignored.
Cuenca and Azuay Province officials issued statements following Orellano’s press conference criticizing the government for its silence during the 48-hour take-over of the prison. “Most of the information we received during the course of this event came from the news media and social media,” the city communication office said in a press release. “We were left to sort out facts from rumors. Prison authorities refused to confirm or deny information that was important for the municipality and the public to know. Even confirmation of the release of hostages was delayed eight hours after it had been reported by other media.”
Jenny Bermeo, head of the Municipal Council Security Commission, demanded a meeting with the Interior Ministry and prison officials to formulate a public information plan in the case of future prison crises. “An interinstitutional security meeting should be convened as soon as possible,” she said. “The objective should be to develop a plan where the mayor, prefect and governor share the same information. In this case, the authorities were not on the same page.”
A municipal councilman who asked a radio station reporter not to use his name, said that Orellana’s statement about “normality” at the prison reminded him of a term used in the United States. “It’s called Snafu, which stands for ‘systems normal, all fucked up.’”
National Police issued a statement Friday regarding one of two explosions Thursday that was at first believed associated with the situation at Turi. “The bombing of the Trooper SUV was the result of a personal conflict between the owner of the vehicle and other individuals,” it said. “An investigation is underway and those responsible will be subject to arrest.”
Police said the other bombing, at a bridge near on Av. Ordóñez Lasso, near Sayausí, is also under investigation and could be related to the prison hostage crisis.