Sixty-seven people were killed in three prison mutinies carried out by criminal organizations in Ecuador, the head of the National Service of Attention to People Deprived of Liberty (SNAI) said on Tuesday.
SNAI director Edmundo Moncayo said that some members of staff were injured in the disorders but none were among the dead in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier in the day President Lenin Moreno said that “criminal organizations” were carrying out violent acts at a number of detention centres at the same time.
“The police and Interior Ministry are working to regain control of the prisons in Guayaquil, Cuenca and Latacunga,” he tweeted.
Later Moreno added that he ordered the Defence Ministry to “exercise strict control of weapons, ammunition and explosives in the outer perimeters of prisons” following the violent riots in the three prisons.
Interior Minister Patricio Pazmino also spoke of concerted action by criminal organizations.
The Ecuadorian army said it was supporting police in security operations around the three compounds.
After security forces were able to bring the situation back under control, investigators conducted a search of cells.
In Guayaquil, they seized firearms, machetes, knives and mobile phones, according to the prosecutor’s office.
“I just came out. They were banging on the doors and shouting,” a visitor to Cuenca prison told El Universo newspaper.
Initial figures had put the number of dead at 10: Eight people were killed at a detention centre in the port city of Guayaquil, according to police chief Patricio Carrillo. Two more were killed in riots in Cuenca.
Later, however, the death toll shot up rapidly, Moncayo put the death toll at the Cuenca prison alone at 38.
There had previously been riots in several prisons in the South American country. Violent clashes were also reported at the Cotopaxi prison.