Amid fierce clashes between criminal gangs and state security forces in Ecuador, all correctional officers taken hostage have now been released. This was announced by the Department of Corrections. Initially, 41 of the hostages, 24 prison guards and 17 administrative employees, were released on Saturday. The remaining 136 correctional officers who had been held by mutinous prisoners in several prisons in the South American country were later released. A guard was killed and another injured in fighting in a prison, it said.
Recently, criminal gangs mutinied in several prisons and took numerous guards under their control. Many prisons in Ecuador are controlled by crime syndicates. Often the security forces simply ensure that the prisoners remain in the detention centers. Within the walls they are largely left to their own devices.
After gunmen stormed a studio of the state television station TC Televisión during a live news broadcast on Tuesday and took numerous hostages, the government sent the armed forces into the fight against the gangs. President Daniel Noboa declared by decree that Ecuador was in an internal armed conflict. He declared 22 criminal groups to be terrorist organizations and non-state warring parties that must be eliminated.
The security situation in Ecuador had recently deteriorated dramatically. The murder rate of 46.5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants last year was the highest in the history of the once peaceful Andean nation and one of the highest in Latin America. Multiple gangs with ties to powerful Mexican cartels are fighting for control of drug trafficking routes. Ecuador is a major transit country for cocaine from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia that is smuggled to the United States and Europe.