The death toll is likely to rise as many of the injured have been taken to hospital in serious condition, Ecuadorian National Police Commander General Fausto Salinas told a news conference on Monday.
The riot broke out in the maximum-security wing of the Social Bellavista rehabilitation center in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, a town about 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) west of the capital Quito.
Salinas told reporters that at least 112 detainees had been recaptured. Ecuador’s interior ministry said authorities had regained control of the facility’s maximum-security wing.
A police officer was injured during the operation to regain control of the prison. Prison guards confiscated four rifles, four pistols and four grenades from inmates during the operations, according to Ecuadorian police.
“My deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who died in the Santo Domingo prison riot. This is an unfortunate result of gang violence,” Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso tweeted.
Ecuador’s prison system has been under a state of emergency since deadly clashes erupted in September 2021, when 118 people were killed in clashes involving automatic weapons and even grenades.
More than 300 inmates were killed in prison violence in 2021, according to figures from Ecuador’s prison service SNAI.
Ecuador is a key transit point on the route that brings cocaine from South America to the United States and Asia, making it fertile ground for gang clashes. In this growing struggle for territorial control, prisons have become contested battlegrounds.
The country’s prisons are also chronically overcrowded. In July 2021, then-prison chief Eduardo Moncayo told local media that Guayaquil’s Litoral penitentiary was the most overcrowded in the country, with more than 9,000 inmates in a facility slated for 5,000.
In October, authorities said thousands of detainees, including the elderly, women, and the disabled and terminally ill, would be pardoned to free up space.