Sat. May 18th, 2024

Reign of terror at Ecuadorian prison comes to an end as hostages held captive by rioting inmates are freed after attempted power grab by drug gangs<!-- wp:html --><div> <p class="mol-para-with-font">All prison staff held in prisons across Ecuador have been released following military operations to retake control over the weekend, prison agency SNAI confirmed.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Some 158 guards and 20 administrative staff were taken hostage last Monday in at least seven prisons as the country grapples with a growing security crisis sparked by a new policy aimed at combating the country’s ruthless drug gangs.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">It was reported that a guard died on Saturday after a confrontation with inmates at a prison in El Oro province. But at night, President Daniel Noboa publicly<span> congratulated the SNAI, the police and the armed forces for the successful release of the prison staff.</span></p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Ecuador’s police and military were photographed today trying to restore order inside prisons, photos distributed showing prisoners shirtless, kneeling and with their hands on their heads as soldiers struggled to regain control.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The end of the hostage crisis is a significant victory for the 36-year-old president, who came to power this month on a campaign to rein in drug gangs with a series of innovative policy ideas.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">But tensions remain high as gangsters rebel against the new “state of emergency” with businesses closed and prisoners still missing across the country.</p> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Prisoners sit huddled together, guarded by police and armed forces, during an operation said to be taking place at Turi prison to regain control of the prison, in Cuenca, Ecuador, on January 14, 2024 .</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Photograph released by the Ecuadorian Armed Forces showing security forces guarding inmates after regaining control of the Turi prison in Cuenca, on January 14.</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Ecuadorian soldiers stand guard next to inmates lying in the courtyard after taking control of the Cuenca prison, in Cuenca, Ecuador</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Photograph released by the Ecuadorian Armed Forces showing security forces guarding inmates after regaining control of a prison in Machala, Ecuador, on January 14.</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Soldiers and police regain control of the Turi prison in Cuenca, on January 14</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Weapons seized after security forces regained control of a prison in Machala this weekend</p> </div> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Security forces were still conducting searches and regaining control of the prisons on Sunday, the military said after the initial announcement Saturday night.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Images shared by the Ecuadorian Armed Forces showed security personnel guarding prisoners at the Turi prison in Cuenca and a prison in Machala on January 14.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">‘The national police are respecting the human rights of these people. We are doing it in a very calm way,’ Norman Cano, police chief of the Esmeraldas prison, said on social networks.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">An investigation will now be carried out to determine those responsible for the hostage taking, the SNAI stated in its statement. </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Even so, Ecuador remains in a state of emergency after the escape of Los Choneros drug trafficker, Adolfo Macías, on January 7.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The escape occurred when President Noboa designated 22 gangs as terrorist groups, making them official military targets.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Noboa declared a state of emergency on January 8, imposed a nationwide curfew and ordered the military to take to the streets.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The gangs responded with a wave of nationwide violence, including the Jan. 9 takeover of a television news studio and attacks on a university.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">In Riobamba, around 39 inmates escaped from a prison, but some were recaptured by authorities.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">And videos circulating on social media show armed men burning vehicles on Esmeraldas Street on Tuesday.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The streets of Quito and Guayaquil were quiet Wednesday morning, with many businesses closed.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Schools closed nationwide and classes were held virtually. Residents said it felt like a return to pandemic lockdowns.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">“It’s horrible, the streets are very empty,” said Guayaquil security guard Rodolfo Tuaz, 40. “It’s a very cold environment, like there’s a new COVID.”</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Police have not yet shared full details of the events that led to the taking of hostages in prisons across the country on January 8.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">But the release of the hostages is a significant victory for the state, which has been criticized for its failure to address Ecuador’s gang problem over the years.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Authorities confirmed that police and armed forces continue to carry out operations across the country, and that the situation appears to be changing.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">More than 1,000 people have been arrested since the state of emergency began on Monday, the government says.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">But Ecuador, ranked among the top cocaine producers, has a deep-seated problem with violent gangs operating within its borders.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The security situation has also worsened since the pandemic, weakening the economy and reducing the number of legitimate avenues for employment.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The number of violent deaths in Ecuador rose to 8,008 last year, almost double the figure reported for 2022, according to government data.</p> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Prisoners lie immobilized, tied with zip ties by police and armed forces, during an operation said to have been carried out at Turi prison to regain control of the prison, in Cuenca, on January 14, 2024.</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Ecuadorian soldiers search a man during a weapons control and search operation and curfew enforcement in Quito, Ecuador, January 14, 2024</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Ecuadorian soldiers conduct a search during an operation to control and search for weapons and enforce curfew in Quito, Ecuador, January 14, 2024.</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Security forces guard inmates after regaining control of a prison in Machala, Ecuador, on January 14, 2024.</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Ecuadorian armed forces stand guard next to inmates with their hands tied in the courtyard after taking control of the Machala prison, in Machala, Ecuador, on January 14, 2024.</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">Members of the military run outside a prison, as Ecuador’s armed forces enter prisons across the country in an attempt to restore order, in Cotopaxi, Ecuador, on January 14, 2024.</p> </div> <div class="artSplitter mol-img-group"> <div class="mol-img"> <div class="image-wrap"> </div> </div> <p class="imageCaption">A member of the Coast Guard Command sails on patrol along the Guayas River next to port terminals during an anti-drug patrol in Guayaquil on January 14, 2024.</p> </div> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Since coming to power this month, President Noboa has announced his revival of the ‘Phoenix Plan’ for security in Ecuador.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Some 20,000 people have been included in their new designation of terrorist groups, he told media on Wednesday.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">His plan also includes a new intelligence unit, new tactical weapons for security forces, new high-security prisons and better security at ports.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The upgrades are expected to cost $800m (£630m). In 2022, Ecuador had an estimated GDP of $115 billion.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Noboa also plans to hold a plebiscite on future security issues, asking the public to vote on issues including the extradition of criminals.</p> </div><!-- /wp:html -->

All prison staff held in prisons across Ecuador have been released following military operations to retake control over the weekend, prison agency SNAI confirmed.

Some 158 guards and 20 administrative staff were taken hostage last Monday in at least seven prisons as the country grapples with a growing security crisis sparked by a new policy aimed at combating the country’s ruthless drug gangs.

It was reported that a guard died on Saturday after a confrontation with inmates at a prison in El Oro province. But at night, President Daniel Noboa publicly congratulated the SNAI, the police and the armed forces for the successful release of the prison staff.

Ecuador’s police and military were photographed today trying to restore order inside prisons, photos distributed showing prisoners shirtless, kneeling and with their hands on their heads as soldiers struggled to regain control.

The end of the hostage crisis is a significant victory for the 36-year-old president, who came to power this month on a campaign to rein in drug gangs with a series of innovative policy ideas.

But tensions remain high as gangsters rebel against the new “state of emergency” with businesses closed and prisoners still missing across the country.

Prisoners sit huddled together, guarded by police and armed forces, during an operation said to be taking place at Turi prison to regain control of the prison, in Cuenca, Ecuador, on January 14, 2024 .

Photograph released by the Ecuadorian Armed Forces showing security forces guarding inmates after regaining control of the Turi prison in Cuenca, on January 14.

Ecuadorian soldiers stand guard next to inmates lying in the courtyard after taking control of the Cuenca prison, in Cuenca, Ecuador

Photograph released by the Ecuadorian Armed Forces showing security forces guarding inmates after regaining control of a prison in Machala, Ecuador, on January 14.

Soldiers and police regain control of the Turi prison in Cuenca, on January 14

Weapons seized after security forces regained control of a prison in Machala this weekend

Security forces were still conducting searches and regaining control of the prisons on Sunday, the military said after the initial announcement Saturday night.

Images shared by the Ecuadorian Armed Forces showed security personnel guarding prisoners at the Turi prison in Cuenca and a prison in Machala on January 14.

‘The national police are respecting the human rights of these people. We are doing it in a very calm way,’ Norman Cano, police chief of the Esmeraldas prison, said on social networks.

An investigation will now be carried out to determine those responsible for the hostage taking, the SNAI stated in its statement.

Even so, Ecuador remains in a state of emergency after the escape of Los Choneros drug trafficker, Adolfo Macías, on January 7.

The escape occurred when President Noboa designated 22 gangs as terrorist groups, making them official military targets.

Noboa declared a state of emergency on January 8, imposed a nationwide curfew and ordered the military to take to the streets.

The gangs responded with a wave of nationwide violence, including the Jan. 9 takeover of a television news studio and attacks on a university.

In Riobamba, around 39 inmates escaped from a prison, but some were recaptured by authorities.

And videos circulating on social media show armed men burning vehicles on Esmeraldas Street on Tuesday.

The streets of Quito and Guayaquil were quiet Wednesday morning, with many businesses closed.

Schools closed nationwide and classes were held virtually. Residents said it felt like a return to pandemic lockdowns.

“It’s horrible, the streets are very empty,” said Guayaquil security guard Rodolfo Tuaz, 40. “It’s a very cold environment, like there’s a new COVID.”

Police have not yet shared full details of the events that led to the taking of hostages in prisons across the country on January 8.

But the release of the hostages is a significant victory for the state, which has been criticized for its failure to address Ecuador’s gang problem over the years.

Authorities confirmed that police and armed forces continue to carry out operations across the country, and that the situation appears to be changing.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested since the state of emergency began on Monday, the government says.

But Ecuador, ranked among the top cocaine producers, has a deep-seated problem with violent gangs operating within its borders.

The security situation has also worsened since the pandemic, weakening the economy and reducing the number of legitimate avenues for employment.

The number of violent deaths in Ecuador rose to 8,008 last year, almost double the figure reported for 2022, according to government data.

Prisoners lie immobilized, tied with zip ties by police and armed forces, during an operation said to have been carried out at Turi prison to regain control of the prison, in Cuenca, on January 14, 2024.

Ecuadorian soldiers search a man during a weapons control and search operation and curfew enforcement in Quito, Ecuador, January 14, 2024

Ecuadorian soldiers conduct a search during an operation to control and search for weapons and enforce curfew in Quito, Ecuador, January 14, 2024.

Security forces guard inmates after regaining control of a prison in Machala, Ecuador, on January 14, 2024.

Ecuadorian armed forces stand guard next to inmates with their hands tied in the courtyard after taking control of the Machala prison, in Machala, Ecuador, on January 14, 2024.

Members of the military run outside a prison, as Ecuador’s armed forces enter prisons across the country in an attempt to restore order, in Cotopaxi, Ecuador, on January 14, 2024.

A member of the Coast Guard Command sails on patrol along the Guayas River next to port terminals during an anti-drug patrol in Guayaquil on January 14, 2024.

Since coming to power this month, President Noboa has announced his revival of the ‘Phoenix Plan’ for security in Ecuador.

Some 20,000 people have been included in their new designation of terrorist groups, he told media on Wednesday.

His plan also includes a new intelligence unit, new tactical weapons for security forces, new high-security prisons and better security at ports.

The upgrades are expected to cost $800m (£630m). In 2022, Ecuador had an estimated GDP of $115 billion.

Noboa also plans to hold a plebiscite on future security issues, asking the public to vote on issues including the extradition of criminals.

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