At least 15 killed in latest Ecuadorean prison violence

By Tito Correa

LATACUNGA, Ecuador (Reuters) - At least 15 prisoners were killed in a prison in the Ecuadorean city of Latacunga on Monday, Ecuador's SNAI prison agency said, and another 21 were injured in the latest incident of deadly jail violence in the Andean country.

The government of conservative President Guillermo Lasso attributes prison violence to fights between gangs over control of territory and drug trafficking routes.

Authorities are working on identifying the bodies, officials said, while Oswaldo Coronel, governor of the Cotopaxi province, which includes Latacunga, told reporters security had been restored.

"At the moment, according to the forensic information from the national police, 15 people have died (and) 21 people have been injured, of which 14 have already been evacuated to hospitals in the city of Latacunga," the governor said.

Last year, 316 prisoners died during riots in various jails across Ecuador.

In July, 13 prisoners were killed at a prison in Santa Domingo, just two months after violence at the same institution killed 43 in May.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said Ecuador's prison system is blighted by state abandonment and the absence of a comprehensive policy, as well as poor conditions for inmates.

The country's prisons house about 33,500 people and are 11.3% beyond maximum capacity, according to official figures.

(Reporting by Tito Correa in Latacunga; Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; Writing by Oliver Griffin and Raju Gopalakrishnan)