Ecuador picks new defense chief amid prisons crisis

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Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso on Monday named a new defense minister, with the country reeling from a massive prisons crisis.

Lasso appointed retired general Luis Hernandez to the post, citing the “moment of inadequate public safety” in the South American nation.

Hernandez will replace Fernando Donoso. The government did not state a reason for the shakeup.

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But it comes as the country's prison system grapples with a spate of bloody riots, and on the eve of the visit by the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who will speak with the president on cooperation in matters of security, defense and trade.

The latest massacre inside a prison in Ecuador left a staggering 119 inmates dead.

So far in 2021, 238 prisoners have died in the riots.

“Ecuador is experiencing a period of insecurity, an insecurity that has as its origin several factors, one of them drug trafficking,” said the president, who said that the Andean nation needs “stronger, more solid” Armed Forces.

The prison crisis led the government to decree a state of emergency for 60 days, which allowed it to mobilize 3,600 soldiers and police to patrol 65 prisons nationwide.

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Death toll in Ecuador prison gang clash tops 100, at least five were beheaded