Dozens killed in prison gang fight just weeks after it saw Ecuador's worst jail massacre

14 November 2021, 11:09 | Updated: 14 November 2021, 12:11

Families gathered at the prison, which has been the scene of well over 100 deaths this year
Families gathered at the prison, which has been the scene of well over 100 deaths this year. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A vicious gun battle between rival drug gangs has left at least 68 inmates dead in Ecuador's largest prison.

The violence broke out at the notorious Litoral Penitentiary just weeks after the country's worst prison massacre took place there.

Footage from the almost eight hours of fighting shows bodies, some burned, on the ground inside the jail.

Pablo Arosemena of Guayas province, which includes Guayaquil, where the prison is based, said inmates inmates "tried to dynamite a wall to get into pavilion two to carry out a massacre".

“They also burned mattresses to try to to drown (their rivals) in smoke," he said.

"We are fighting against drug trafficking. It is very hard."

Authorities have blamed prison gangs linked to international drug cartels for the brutal violence.

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The prison recently saw Ecuador's worst inmate massacre
The prison recently saw Ecuador's worst inmate massacre. Picture: Alamy

Drone footage saw prisoners armed with guns and explosives attempting to enter pavilion two of the prison, whose leader had been released during the week, according to police commander Tanya Varela.

Police went in to try and get prisoners back to their cells and protect the pavilion.

"These events are due to the dispute among criminal gangs over territory; there are now pavilions without leaders," Ms Varela said.

A dozen prisoners were injured in the attacks, on top of the stark death toll.

Prisons across Ecuador have seen huge spates of violence break out.

Litoral prison was the scene of 118 deaths in September, in another fight between gangsters.

It was described as Ecuador's worst prison massacre in its history.

At least five of the dead were beheaded.

In February, riots across separate prisons left 79 inmates dead. The death toll for people behind bars is more than 300 this year.

A national state of emergency was declared by the Ecuadorian president, Gullermo Lasso, last month. It allows security services to fight drug trafficking and other crimes.

Relatives of inmates gathered outside Litoral prison, with Francisca Chancay, 55, saying her brother had been inside for eight months.

"Enough of this. When will they stop the killing? This is a prison not a slaughterhouse, they are human beings,” she said.

There are about 8,500 inmates in Litoral, a significant chunk of the 40,000 across the country, but 3,500 above its capacity.

Authorities plan to use more than 1,000 pardons to quell the violence, as well as trying measures like relocating inmates and transferring prisoners back to their home countries.

A major obstacle to stopping violence is cost, with Ecuador hoping to use foreign aid to improve resources and logistics.

Freight scanners, which could stop guns and explosives getting into jails, cost millions of dollars.