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‘Wounds of crime’ enslave the poorest, says Pope after gruesome clash in Ecuador prison


AP/Associated Press/East News

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 10/03/21

More than 100 inmates were killed in confrontation of rival gangs

“I was very saddened by what happened in recent days in the prison of Guayaquil, Ecuador,” Pope Francis said after praying the midday Angelus on October 3.

He noted the “terrible outbreak of violence” between rival gangs, which led to the death of at least 118 prisoners, with another 80 injured.

In clashes between Tuesday and Thursday of last week, the prisoners used explosives and weapons, leaving each other decapitated, dismembered, and charred.

“I pray for them and their families,” the Pope said. “May God help us heal the wounds of crime that enslave the poorest. And help those who work every day to make prison life more humane.”

Pope Francis has often spoken out about the problems of prisons, and particularly in some areas of the world where the system itself is gravely inhumane. He has lamented the lack of hope and rehabilitation that can become part of the prison system, for example as a result of life imprisonment sentences. He also has followed in the footsteps of his immediate predecessors in saying that there are not conditions that could justify the death penalty.

Grant us peace

The prison in Ecuador houses 8,500 prisoners but has a capacity of only 5,300 prisoners, which represents an overcrowding of 60%.

In addition to the gang members incarcerated, other inmates are there for lesser crimes. Family members are still waiting to hear if their brothers/sons are alive.

Ecuador is on the trade route of drugs being produced in South America, for example in neighboring Peru and Colombia, trafficked through Mexico and sold largely in the United States. Powerful trafficking gangs in Mexico are said to network with Ecuadorian gangs, and might have been the catalyst for this week’s violence.

While prison violence has occurred various times in Ecuador, this is the deadliest attack on record.

A Mass celebrated today at the Cathedral in Guayaquil was to implore peace from God, and to pray for those who lost their lives.

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