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The two jails had previously experienced violent riots in February, when clashes between rival gangs vying for control of the country's main prisons left 79 inmates dead in a single day.

Ecuador's prison system has about 60 facilities with capacity for 29,000 inmates. But overcrowding is around 30 per cent, with 38,000 detainees watched by 1,500 guards that experts say it would take 4,000 for effective control.

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