Ecuador's President Lasso announces plan to pacify prisons


By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso on Monday announced a plan to pacify prisons across the country, including with involvement of the military, as part of steps to tackle a wave of violence which has left scores of prisoners dead.

Lasso's announcement followed fighting between criminal groups in the Penitenciaria del Litoral prison over the weekend, resulting in up to 68 prisoners killed and 25 injured, according to the government.

The prison, located in the city of Guayaquil, was the scene of violence at the end of September where 119 inmates were killed, during the worst incident of prison violence in the country's recent history.

Authorities attribute the wave of prison violence to competing drug-trafficking gangs which look to establish control of trafficking routes.

Steps to pacify the prisons were agreed with a wide range of officials, Lasso said, adding the violence described as one of the biggest crises the country has faced in decades.

Ecuador faces "a serious external threat from attack of drug-trafficking mafias, the same ones that intend to take control of the detention centers and take away our peace of mind," Lasso said during a press conference in Guayaquil.

Steps to pacify Ecuador's prisons will include talks and respect for human rights, which will also see support from international organizations, Lasso said.

Military personnel will also participate in security controls inside and outside of the prisons, in order to maintain order. The deployment will confirm with the constitution and the law, Lasso added.

A total of 1,000 police and military personnel entered the prison on Monday, the government said in a statement.

The president appointed General Orlando Fabian Fuel as the chief of Ecuador's armed forces late on Sunday. He also designated Luis Burbano as the new commander of Ecuador's army while placing Fausto Cobo, head of the country's intelligence services, in charge of the SNAI prison authority.

The government declared a 60-day state of emergency in Ecuador's prisons in September to free up funds to address the violence.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Additional reporting by Yury Garcia in Guayaquil; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Marguerita Choy)

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