Turi riot leaders identified, transferred to Guayaquil; Government says prison reforms are imminent
Interior Minister Patricio Castillo said Monday afternoon that order has been restored at the Turi Penitentiary south of Cuenca and that those responsible for Sunday’s riot have been identified and transferred to a prison in Guayaquil. He said the final death toll is 20 and he doesn’t expect more bodies to be found.
“As soon as we determined the five men responsible for the massacre we put them on a plane to Guayaquil,” Castillo said. “They will be processed there to determine the legal action they will face. These were the ranking gang members in the pavilion where the violence occurred and they are ones who ordered the murders.”
As of 6 p.m. Monday, Carrillo said that 17 bodies had been identified and 10 of them had been delivered to relatives. He added that psychologists were called to prepare families for what they would see when they arrived at the morgue. Five of the dead had been beheaded and seven died of hanging. In addition, several of the bodies had been mutilated.
In the police search following the riot, the Interior Ministry press office reported that police had found five guns, 127 knives, 197 spent bullet casings, 50 cell phones, 329 bags of illegal drugs and 1,312 liters of homemade liquor. According to family members who received phone calls from victims, gang leaders were drinking before the murders began.
The Ministry said that searches would continue through Tuesday.
According to Castillo, the motive behind the uprising was an effort by one gang to eliminate the leadership of four smaller gangs. On Sunday, other officials named the Los Lobos as the gang responsible for the deaths. The Los Lobos are aligned with the Mexican New Generation drug cartel and have operations in Colombia as well Guayaquil, Manta, Esmeraldas and Machala in Ecuador.
“Our prison system has done a poor job of identifying the most dangerous prisoners, especially those that occupy leadership positions in the drug gangs,” Castillo said. “The process of registering and categorizing prisoners must assume the highest importance if we are to regain control of the penal system. The job after today is to drain the cesspit we have allowed to form by keeping the ringleaders of violence away from other prisoners.”
Castillo added that he has spoken to President Guillermo Lasso and that the government will expedite the training of 3,000 additional prison guards. “A top priority is to stop the corruption that has allowed weapons and illegal substances to enter the prisons. Just as we have moral rot among the inmates, it also exists among some of the staff,” he said.
Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios said Monday morning that he has sent a new complaint to the government about housing violent criminals at Turi. “This is my second appeal that the original plan for Turi, defined during the administration of former president Correa, be reinstated — that is, that only convicts from southern Ecuador, the Andes and Amazon regions, be incarcerated at the prison.”
He added that none of the dead or the riot leaders were from the area. “As I understand it, they were from Guayaquil, Duran, Manta and Quito. They should not have been at Turi.”