Bloody Ecuador prison riots highlight safety crisis in Latin American jails

Latin America's prison system has become a coronavirus hotbed. Human rights advocates say countries should reduce inmate populations

prison riots ecuador
Prison Penal Garcia Moreno, in Quito. Photo: Fotos365/Shutterstock

Just days after finalizing the first round of its presidential election, Ecuador woke up to news of the bloodiest prison riot in the country’s history. According to local authorities, 78 people died and 28 were injured in simultaneous massacres in four separate jails.

Police say the violence was gang-motivated, after the death of prominent criminal leader José Luiz Zambrano in December. Mr. Zambrano was in charge of Los Choneros — Ecuador’s largest criminal gang — and his death opened a power vacuum being fought over by a number of would-be gang leaders. 

The riots were quickly put down, but...

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