Ecuador plans to pardon around 2,000 inmates following a recent riot to free up some space in prison.
Bolivar Garzon, the director of Ecuador's prison agency SNAI, said that women, those with disabilities, and terminally ill inmates will be prioritized on the pardon list and foreign nationals will be deported. As of press writing, 82 cases are being processed.
Last week, 118 inmates were killed and dozens were wounded following a riot at the Litoral penitentiary in Guayaquil. At least five of the deceased inmates were also beheaded.
However, only 41 out of the 118 deceased inmates have been identified. And Henry Coral, a police official, is seeking the help of family members to identify the other deceased inmates by telling authorities about any definitive marks on their loved ones bodies.
The riot was reportedly started by rival gangs in the prison.
According to reports, the deaths were caused by bullet wounds and grenade explosions. During the investigation, the guns, ammunition, 25 bladed weapons, three explosive devices, and various drugs were seized.
Families of deceased and wounded inmates receiving support from Ecuador government
Families and friends of the deceased are being discouraged to visit the prison for now because it hasn't been secured completely.
Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso is urging families and friends to stay away from the area. However, the government also provided them with food and psychological support during this difficult time.
"I wish I was able right now to say that yes, we have completely secured the Litoral Penitentiary, but frankly I cannot. This meeting we just had was to organize the next steps forward, and I hope in the next few hours you will see some of the plans we agreed in action," he said via CNN.
Lasso also said that it is regrettable that prisons are being turned into territories of power. But he vowed to act with absolute firmness to regain control of Litoral prison and prevent the same incident from happening again, according to the Associated Press.
Ecuador president declares 60-day state of emergency
Following the harrowing incident, Lasso declared a 60-day state of emergency across all prisons in Ecuador. Military troops will be deployed to penitentiaries so that they can conduct searches and other surveillance measures.
Approximately $24 million will also be allotted to the prison systems during this time.
Three prison riots have taken place in Ecuador this year
According to Al Jazeera, the recent prison riot is not an isolated case in Ecuador. In recent months, there have also been several outbreaks of violence in various prisons in the area.
Officials believe that the gangs inside the prison are working with transnational criminal groups and are battling over the drug trafficking routes.
The clashes reportedly increased as Mexican drug cartels like Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generacion have formed alliances with local gangs.
Earlier this year, 79 inmates died when three riots broke out in different prisons at the same time. In July, 27 others were killed at the Litoral facility.
Just last month, another prison was attacked by drones, but no casualties were reported.