The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) is calling on Ecuador’s government to provide better security in its prison system, claiming that recent murders and violence indicate a lack of institutional control. “The rights and personal integrity of those imprisoned in the country have not been protected and we call on the authorities to make immediate changes to correct the situation,” the CIDH said in its report.
Since the beginning of the years, 121 men have died in prisons in Guayaquil, Cuenca, Latacunga and Manta and another 200 have suffered serious injury.
The CIDH said that the national prison system has an “extreme shortage” of personnel to oversee the country’s prisoners, which has allowed criminal gangs to control large areas of prison infrastructure. According to the CIDH, Ecuador needs to increase the number of prison guards and support workers by 40 percent.
In a brief statement responding to the CIDH report, the presidential press office acknowledged the problem. “We do not deny the concerns of the commission. We are aware of the circumstances that have led to violence and deaths in our prisons and are prepare action to make the required changes.”
Last week, President Guillermo Lasso said there is a “direct connection” between the illegal drug trade and prison violence, and said that more than 80 percent of recent prison murders are connected to the trade. “There has been a great increase in the last year in the shipment of drugs in the coastal region and the gangs who control the shipments are also active in the prisons,” he said. “We must improve our management of the prisons, but we must also take measures to control the flow of drugs into and out of the country. One cannot happend without the other.”
The National Police command also sees a connection with murders inside the prisons to those on the outside, in Guayaquil, Manta, Santa Elena and Esmeraldas. “The surge in murders is almost entirely related to the increase in the drug trade, which is controlled by gangs working for Mexican and Colombian cartels.”
Lasso has ordered a change of administration at all prisons and says additional guards will hired by the end of the year.