GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR – Alex Burbano’s youngest brother, Jonathan, was quiet and serious. The 23-year-old was halfway through a two-year prison sentence when he was killed in a massacre at Guayaquil’s Litoral Penitentiary in September 2021.
It was one of the deadliest in a string of Ecuadorian prison riots last year, resulting in 119 deaths. Alex said his family received an email on the morning of September 28 warning that riots had broken out at Litoral, and they waited anxiously all day for news about Jonathan.
He finally called around 9pm via WhatsApp, a common form of communication within Ecuador’s prisons, and told his family he was OK – but they could hear explosions and gunshots in the background.
They never heard from Jonathan again. Witnesses later told Alex that a grenade had been detonated near his brother’s cell. An autopsy showed that he died of a traumatic brain injury.
It took authorities two days to confirm that Jonathan had died because they did not have records of who was incarcerated in each cell, Alex told Al Jazeera, noting that armed groups inside the prison control who stays where.
“The state has no control over anything,” he said from his home in southern Guayaquil. “If there is a weapon in a prison, if there is an explosive in a prison, you realise that there is no control. Where does it all come in? Through the front door.”
(Photo Credit: Dolores Ochoa / AP Photos)