The warden of an Ecuadoran prison where deadly riots broke out two weeks ago was killed by gunmen on Thursday, the federal prisons agency announced.
Retired police colonel Santiago Loza took up his post as head of Quito’s Pichincha 1 prison on November 9.
But just over a week later, on November 18, riots broke out after gang leaders were transferred to another facility, with ten prisoners dying in the brawl.
Loza “has been the victim of a deadly attack” on a side road in Quito, the SNAI federal prisons agency said in a statement.
Witnesses said Loza was driving his car when people on a motorcycle shot and killed him, the police said.
Since February 2021, more than a dozen gang-related riots have broken out at Ecuador’s overcrowded prisons, leaving some 400 inmates dead.
The SNAI has pledged to reinforce its prisons and address the overcapacity.
“We repudiate this cowardly act committed in the midst of the transformation process, which we have undertaken as an institution, for the security and control of detention centers,” added the SNAI.
On Monday, Ecuadoran authorities announced the deployment of 1,461 new prison guards joining the current team of about 1,500 officers, who at times have been severely outnumbered in a country with 32,000 inmates.
While Ecuador does not have large drug production or cartels, it has become a significant conduit for cocaine from neighboring Colombia and Peru, due to weaker controls at its main port and its dollar economy.
Mexican, Colombian and Balkan mafias are all involved in the trade, pitting local gangs against each other as they jockey for alliances and control of drug-smuggling routes.