At least 13 people have been killed during a riot at a detention centre in Ecuador, the country’s prison agency has said, in the latest incident of deadly prison violence in the Andean nation.
The agency said on its Twitter account late on Monday that the riot took place at Bellavista prison in Santo Domingo, 70km (43 miles) southwest of Quito, Ecuador’s capital.
“Unfortunately, personnel from the centre report up to now that 13 prisoners are dead and two are injured,” the agency said, adding that a final count will be carried out by the attorney general’s office.
Authorities said the situation inside the prison was under control.
Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo later told a news conference that current information indicated “most” of the victims were Venezuelan.
“So far, 13 bodies have been recovered and a total inspection is being carried out inside the prison,” he said, adding it was “quite probable” more bodies would be found.
The incident is the latest bout of deadly violence to grip Ecuador’s prison system, which conservative President Guillermo Lasso’s government has blamed on confrontations between rival drug gangs linked to Mexican cartels.
In late April, Lasso declared a state of emergency in three provinces over rising drug-related violence. But less than two weeks later, on May 9, another riot between gangs inside Bellavista prison left at least 43 people dead.
Ecuador’s prison agency, known by its Spanish acronym SNAI, said on Tuesday that it was transferring 15 inmates from Bellavista prison to other detention centres in order to protect their safety. It also said it would provide relatives with information.
In another tweet, SNAI published photos of firearms, ammunition, knives and mobile phones that it said were found in the prison after the riot.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said Ecuador’s prison system is blighted by state abandonment and the absence of a comprehensive policy, as well as poor conditions for inmates.
Last year, 316 prisoners died during clashes in various prisons across Ecuador, prompting the government to pardon some 2,000 inmates in an effort to reduce overcrowding.
But the problem persists. The country’s prisons house about 33,900 people and are 12.5 percent beyond maximum capacity, according to official figures.