Fugitive gang leader Jose 'Fito' Macias was prevented from returning to Ecuador prison after 'guards escorted him to a doctor's appointment on Christmas Day'
The leader of one of Ecuador's most powerful gangs allegedly slipped past his prison guards during a visit to a doctor's surgery, a former senior official has revealed.
José “Fito” Macías was reported missing on Sunday during an inspection of his prison cell in the high-security wing of the Zone Prison No. 8 in Guayaquil.
Macías had an appointment on Christmas Day, but never returned to the Port City Jail.
In an interview broadcast on Radio Pichincha on Monday, the official, former Interior Minister José Serrano, said another person was returning in place of the leader of the feared criminal organization Los Choneros.
“He went out for a medical consultation and the moment he came in, a person covered his face,” he said.
'So, what are we talking about? Someone came in with their face covered and they pretended that this person who went to Regional Rehabilitation No. 8 was Fito, but in reality it was not Fito.”
Handout photo released by the Armed Forces of Ecuador showing José “Fito” Macías, leader of the criminal gang Los Choneros, as he is transferred to The Rock maximum security complex in Zone Prison No. 8 in Guayaquil, Ecuador on August 12, 2023 . Macias is said to have fled from prison guards who accompanied him to a doctor's appointment on December 25
A painting of Ecuadorian fugitive gang leader José “Fito” Macías was found hanging in his prison cell on Sunday after officials noticed he was missing from the Guayaquil detention center.
Serrano, who served as interior minister from 2011 to 2016 under former President Rafael Correa's administration, said Macías' escape created “greater severity” because officials only noticed he was missing on Sunday.
Unlike Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who famously escaped from a Mexican prison through an underground tunnel, he said it is inconceivable that Macías fled the same way.
“It is practically impossible to make a tunnel because the water level does not allow building a tunnel on the ground, Region No. 8,” Serrano said.
“So where did you escape Fito? This is a serious issue. Fito left through the large door of the prison.'
Macías was sentenced to 34 years in prison in 2011 for various crimes, including drug trafficking and murder.
Aerial view of the Zonal Prison No. 8 in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where Los Choneros leader Jose 'Fito' Macías
Police forces, backed by the military, prepare to carry out a security operation following incidents at El Inca prison in Quito on January 8
Los Choneros is a huge criminal organization that authorities have linked to crimes including extortion, murder and drug trafficking.
Their network of members is vast and permeates many of the country's prisons, with the group accused of controlling many prisons from the inside.
A slew of images showed heavily armed military police and army units gathering in Guayaquil in preparation for the manhunt, while other units today carried out security operations to quell unrest in other prisons populated by members of Los Choneros.
La Regional prison, the high-security prison where Macías was housed, is located within a large prison complex that houses more than 12,000 inmates.
For the past twelve years, Macías has lived there within the prison walls.
José 'Fito' Macías is the leader of Los Choneros, an Ecuadorian gang linked to the Sinaloa Cartel
Police and military officers enter Litoral Prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador on January 7, 2024
Police said they initially noticed his absence on Sunday morning and later raised the alarm when they could not find him anywhere in the prison.
Rival criminal organizations regularly clash in Ecuador's overcrowded prisons. Official figures show that more than 400 prisoners have died since 2021.
According to authorities, Macías' network is responsible for much of this violence.
Members commit contract killings, run racketeering operations, move and sell drugs, and are the law in a number of prisons.
Los Choneros and other similar groups, mainly 'Los Lobos' and 'Los Tiguerones', have fought for territory and control.
The gangs have ties to cartels from Colombia and Mexico, including the infamous Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.