Closer look at the 74 prison inmates found dead in Ecuador

(CNN) – Ecuador on Saturday identified the bodies of 74 people found dead in a sprawling prison facility built for less than 700 inmates.

Of the 79 bodies at the Puente Grande facility, 72 were already identified, Interior Minister Gustavo Mata said.

The other seven are still being identified because they were from jails in other parts of the country. Most of the bodies are from Puente Grande.

“When we die, death is not so hard,” 20-year-old inmate Abdiel Suárez told CNN en Español. “Death is like a normal situation.”

Authorities said they’re investigating how inmates began fighting each other at the 1,900-inmate maximum-security facility in Quito. A wall collapsed after the fighting, trapping dozens.

Their macabre fate echoes that of Cellblock C in Mexico City’s Zacatecas prison, where 74 people died, including 35 women, during a fight in 2015.

Days before that deadly battle, an inmate made a plea to the Mexican government — and it’s now part of the investigation into the deaths at Puente Grande.

Over the past five years, Human Rights Watch has published several reports on the deadly violence in prisons across Latin America. They describe a system in which security agencies don’t have the tools they need to properly enforce order, or where corrupt gangs influence officers by playing upon the emotions of the inmates.

The report cites chilling cases such as when MS-13 gang members massacred rivals in a Panama prison. MS-13 allegedly ordered prison guards to free them from a dispute with an Al Qaeda cell inside the penitentiary.

A potential $4 million-a-year contract that Gov. Omar Quijano approved for a private security firm to protect Mexico’s maximum-security prisons sparked criticism. But the $4 million contract actually didn’t fund the security firm but merely exposed the state to lawsuits in the event of criminal actions inside the prisons.

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