On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 79 prisoners from 3 of Ecuador’s maximum-security prisons were slaughtered to death. The Ecuadorian prison massacre comes after the assassination of Jose Luiz Zambrano Gonzales, leader of Los Chonero the biggest narco cartels in the country.
The “unprecedented” event, not only exposed the power of prison gangs but also shocked the entire nation.
Along with disturbing videos of the murders, came a message threatening Coronel Orlando Jácome — Deputy Director of the National Service for Comprehensive Care for Adults Deprived of Liberty and Teenage Offenders (“Snai”).
Coronel Orland Jácome presented his resignation on February 24, 2021. More than 17 million people are now looking for answers as to what happened.
In Ecuador’s largest-ever prison massacre, what happened?
On Tuesday morning, at 7:12 an emergency call from Guayaquil’s prison was received. Followed by an emergency call from Cuenca and Latagcunga at 9 am and 10 am respectively. Yet, the police arrived only to find blocked doors and arson that blocked their way.
Meanwhile, inside the prison, videos were taken of the horrific events that were happening. Explicit videos of inmates being decapitated, hearts on palms still beating, others dismembered with chainsaws. All while others played soccer with the heads of the victims.
No guards nearby. No alarms.
Wednesday of that same week, it was confirmed that 37 prisoners died in Guayaquil prison, 8 in Latacunga and 34 in Cuenca. The three prisons jointly hold more than two-thirds of the country’s entire inmate population.
After careful investigations, it was concluded that Ecuador’s prison massacre began after the leader of the biggest narco cartels was killed in December 2020, leaving a vacant seat to seize power and control over prisons and the narcotic roads of Ecuador.
Juan Luiz Zambrano Gonzales, also known as JL, was the leader of Los Choneros, Ecuador’s biggest drug Cartel.
The Choneros are in charge of all the logistics that go into transporting drugs from one country to another. They are in total control of Ecuador’s routes, hence making them a valuable asset to major drug cartels like the Sinaloa Cartel.
Not only were they powerful for their route control, they were powerful for their quantity. The Choneros had over 5,000 members spread across the entire country.
The problem arises when The Choneros try to uphold the control of Guayaquil’s port — the key to drug trafficking routes.
However, once The Choneros tried to establish their power in Guayaquil, they encounter resistance from Los Lagartos, the gang who was in control of Guayaquil’s drug logistics.
By this time, JL had already created a name for himself. Not only had he gained control over almost all trafficking routes in Ecuador, he controlled all three prisons mention earlier as well. He became respected and feared among his cartel and others — no one could dare to touch him.
But, Los Largartos were not letting JL take control of yet another trafficking route. And, on December 28, 2020, JL was killed in the middle of a mall in the city of Manta.
However, it is said that Los Largartos did not dispose of the resources to kill such a prominent figure. Authorities, therefore, suggest that they had made an agreement with the Sinaloa Cartel Leader, the one and only Chapo.
Another suggestion is that there is a revolution happening within The Choneros themselves. It is said that a new generation of Choneros is trying to seize control over the entire organization. Thus, partnering with Los Largatos and helping with the assassination of their own leader.
Once JL out of the picture, they had to get rid of JL’s predecessors: “Junior” and Tito (the same guys in charge of keeping control of all three prisons). However, that never happened, both of them received information about the intent of their murder ahead of time. And, just in time when arms were infiltrating to prisons for their murder, the riot started.
This not only uncovers the power and terror that these prison gangs are able to uphold over the police but also pointed to further evidence that Ecuador’s ex-president might have been involved.
After the riots, an investigation was opened on the matter. Evidence was found that suggested that Ecuador’s former President had, in fact, close connections with El Chapo Guzman (the main suspect behind Ecuador’s prison massacre).
It happens that, Telmo Castro, a retired Army captain had a close relationship with Rafael Correa. He was sentenced to prison after being framed as the main representative of El Chapo in Ecuador.
Later, evidence found in his blackberry proved the relationship between the former president and José Antonio Aguilar Orozco, Darwin Stalin Gómez Vélez, and Edgar Fernando Sandoval Puga who were later found guilty of drug trafficking.
It is important to note that the events come during a sensible time in Ecuador. The country is currently undergoing political elections where Correa’s political party is trying to re-take control over the country.
Still, whether that frames him as an accomplice of all the Ecuador’s prison massacre is yet to be discovered.