Become a member of The Cuenca Dispatch and access exclusive weekly reports on Ecuador's economy, politics, crime and more that you will not find published anywhere else on the web.

Ecuador's Original English Language Newspaper

Ecuador to Initiate Construction of $52 Million ‘Bukele-Style’ Prison to Combat Organized Crime

Published on June 17, 2024

If you find this article informative…

Members receive weekly reports on Ecuador’s economics, politics, crime and more. Plus, NO ADS.

Start your subscription today for just $1 for the first month.

(Regular subscription options $4.99/month or $42/year/)

Click here to subscribe.

Ecuador’s government is set to start construction this month on a new prison modeled after the ‘Bukele-style’ facilities in El Salvador, with the aim of combating organized crime and enhancing the country’s prison system.

Luis Zaldumbide, director of the National Service for Comprehensive Attention to Persons Deprived of Liberty (SNAI), confirmed that construction of a new prison in the coastal province of Santa Elena is set to begin this month—at a cost of $52 million— and will take approximately 300 days, with the prison expected to open in 2025. This facility is one of two new prisons promised by Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa to improve the country’s ability to manage its inmate population and tackle criminal gang activity.

The second proposed prison, intended for the Amazonian province of Pastaza, has been temporarily suspended. Pastaza governor Rolando Ramos explained that the project, estimated to cost between $60 million and $70 million, is currently on hold. Despite this suspension, the project is not canceled, as funds have already been allocated to the SNAI for its eventual construction.

President Noboa’s strategy is to incarcerate leaders of criminal gangs in these high-security prisons to regain control of other prison facilities currently plagued by gang violence. From 2021 to 2023, over 500 inmates were killed in a series of prison massacres linked to gang conflicts.

These new prisons will be smaller in scale compared to El Salvador’s Terrorism Confinement Center (Cecot), which houses up to 40,000 inmates. The Ecuadorian facilities will have a capacity of 736 prisoners each. They will feature advanced security measures, including cellular and satellite signal inhibition, electronic systems with cutting-edge technology, digital and analog access control, triple perimeter security, and electrical self-generation.

Confidentiality Specifications

To construct the Santa Elena prison, the SNAI plans to award the contract to the Spanish firm Puentes y Calzadas Infraestructuras SL on June 20th. This company is a subsidiary of the Chinese state enterprise China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and has prior experience in Ecuador, including the construction of hospitals and other infrastructure projects.

For security reasons, the details and specifications of the prison project have been classified to prevent organized crime groups from exploiting potential vulnerabilities. The SNAI stressed the importance of maintaining confidentiality to protect the new facilities from sabotage or unauthorized control.

Prison Overcrowding

Ecuador’s prison system is currently struggling with overcrowding, housing 32,039 inmates in facilities designed for 27,714, resulting in a 15.6% overcrowding rate. The new Santa Elena prison is expected to help alleviate some of this pressure, particularly in the Guayaquil prison complex, which has a high concentration of ‘narcoterrorist’ groups.

The Santa Elena prison will feature various levels of security, including 160 high-security cells for four inmates each, 32 maximum-security cells for two inmates each, and 32 super maximum-security cells for individual prisoners. These advanced security measures and self-sustaining systems aim to ensure the facility’s operational independence and resilience.

Despite the suspension of the Pastaza prison project, the Ecuadorian government remains committed to improving its correctional infrastructure. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to combat organized crime, reduce gang influence within the prison system, and enhance overall prison conditions.

President Noboa’s focus on constructing secure and technologically advanced prisons reflects the country’s determination to address its prison crisis and reduce the influence of criminal gangs. By implementing these measures, Ecuador aims to create a safer and more effective correctional system capable of handling its inmate population and mitigating the impact of organized crime.


  1. Bukele-style? His new prison holds 40,000 and ours 736?! We have overcrowding of 4,300+ and a new prison for 736?! We still have thousands in the business and not incarcerated. These new prisons may be super-max at a cost of over $70,000 per inmate, but I fail to see how its going to even make a dent in the problem.

  2. Is them killing each other off a bad thing?

  3. public executions is the only way to deal with pedators


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This