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Drone Blasts Hole in Prison That Held Ecuador Drug Bosses

(Bloomberg) -- A drone loaded with explosives blasted a hole in the roof of a prison that has held some of Ecuador’s most notorious drug lords, in the latest sign of the nation’s slide into chaos.

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Police special forces carried out a controlled explosion of the artifact Tuesday after it landed on the penitentiary known as “La Roca,” Interior Minister Juan Zapata said in a statement. The blast ripped off much of the building’s roof.

Ecuador’s prison service didn’t respond to questions regarding current inmates of La Roca, which is in Guayaquil on the nation’s Pacific coast. The institution has held ringleaders of prison riots that have left more than 430 inmates dead since 2021.

After the drone was detected early Tuesday, inmates at risk of injury were transferred elsewhere within the sprawling complex that includes several jails, Zapata said.

The procedure successfully avoided casualties, and “there was material damage” while neutralizing the danger, he said in follow-up comments. By using a scanner, security also detected and foiled an attempt to smuggle guns and ammunition hidden in a canister of gas into the prison, Zapata added.

Violence between warring groups of cocaine traffickers has engulfed Ecuador in recent years, with the homicide rate surging to 27 people per 100,000 last year, topping Colombia and Mexico.

Crime became the main issue in the presidential election, even before candidate Fernando Villavicencio was gunned down in August after vowing to fight the drug mafias. The runoff between businessman Daniel Noboa and socialist candidate Luisa Gonzalez is scheduled for Oct. 15.

Read more: Investor Favorite Leads Socialist by Ten Points in Ecuador Poll

(Updates with detail on damage, foiled smuggling bid in fourth paragraph. An earlier version corrected spelling of socialist candidate’s first name in sixth paragraph)

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