Author: Eric

Prisoners’ camp in Quito is a fight for control of the country’s prisons

Prisoners' camp in Quito is a fight for control of the country's prisons

Ecuador authorities vow to regain control of prisons amid wave of violence and unrest

Elena Becatoros, left, and her husband, Ruben Lleras, both 43, arrive at a local office building to apply for a residence permit, in Quito on Oct. 9, 2010. Authorities promise to recover control of prisons, which they’ve been struggling to govern, amid a wave of violent unrest and protests that began with a strike by prison guards last month.

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. — The struggle for prisoners’ rights is one of many fights taking place in Ecuador, where officials, on both ends of the political spectrum, are struggling to control the country’s overcrowded prisons and regain control of the country’s justice system.

In Quito, which had been ruled the prison capital of Latin America, inmates have been setting up camp in the city’s central square since at least last month, with little interest in obeying any law or government order.

The inmates have their own rules about how they will be governed. They call themselves “the movement for the prisoners,” and many support the guerrillas fighting in Colombia’s war on drugs.

The inmates built up what is now a 3,000-foot camp near Quito’s central plaza, with tents, a movie theater, a supermarket and two football fields for games, said Ruben Gatica, a Quito resident who helped organize the camp. He said prisoners are going to continue setting up camp.

“They can’t stay and fight for their freedom — until they have a good jail,” he said. “They need to fight for their life for a while.”

The prisoners’ camp in Quito was started by some inmates escaping from a high-security prison in the city as a protest against the lack of security in police and prison departments.

In Quito, the fight over control of prisons has been intense since before the strike, said Gustavo Correa, an attorney with the International Human Rights Law Centre, or IHRL.

“Quito’s prisons have been in disrepair for five years,” he said, pointing to a jail that

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