Lasso declares emergency following Manta murders; 96 prison guards held hostage, 53 in Cuenca

Jul 25, 2023 | 0 comments

Ecuador’s government has declared a state of emergency in Manabi and Los Ríos Provinces as its ongoing security crisis escalated over the weekend with the killing of a mayor and uprisings in several prisons across the country.

The emergency declaration also applies to the city of Durán, east of Guayaquil, which has been a hotspot of gang-related murders.

As of early Tuesday morning, 53 prison workers were held hostage at the Turi prison south of Cuenca.

As of Monday night, more than 90 prison security guards were being held by inmates in five different prisons, including 53 at the Turi penitentiary in Cuenca. Prison authorities had not yet started negotiations for their release at 9 p.m. “Once we have official interagency information, we will communicate to them [prisoners] immediately,” the government said.

The statement added that they had been assured that the hostages are being well treated and will not be subjected to violence.

Hundreds of inmates have been killed in recent years in Ecuador as members of competing criminal organizations square off with each other inside the prisons, which are often self-ruled by the criminal organizations. On Sunday, a prison riot left six dead at Littoral prison in Guayaquil, the country’s most violent.

When he announced the emergency declaration Monday, President Guillermo Lasso decried the killing of Manta Mayor Agustin Intriago who was targeted Sunday during a neighborhood visit. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the mayor and the second victim as we once again confront a case of senseless violence,” he said.

Lasso said he has ordered all resources necessary to apprehending those responsible for Intriago’s assassination. One of the suspects was arrested at the scene after he was wounded in a shootout with police. At least one other shooter is believed to have escaped.

The second victim of the Manta attack was Ariana Chancay, an associate of Intriago. Three others were injured and are recovering at a local hospital.

Manta, Ecuador’s sixth largest city, is a key port on the Pacific coast and one of the largest tuna ports in the world. In recent years, the port has become a notorious hotspot for drug trafficking as Ecuador has struggled to contain the presence of international criminal organizations including Mexican and Colombian cartels.

The state of emergency imposes a dusk to dawn curfew in Manta and Manabi and Los Ríos Provinces. In addition, the military has been authorized to set up security checks on key highways leading into the area.

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