Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / World / Americas

All-out war: Ecuador vows to crush gangs after recent spike in violence

By SERGIO HELD and GERMAN SANCHEZ in Bogota | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-01-13 07:45
Share - WeChat
Members of the armed forces stand guard in a subway car during an operation to protect civil security in Quito, Ecuador, on Wednesday. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ecuador continued to restore order after a violent outbreak across its prison system and in the streets of major cities, deploying more than 22,400 soldiers on Thursday to put down a campaign of terror waged by gangs that has claimed 16 lives.

With armed presence on the streets, patrols by land, sea and air, random body and car searches, prison raids and the enforcement of a nationwide curfew, the government of President Daniel Noboa has vowed not to yield in its all-out war with 22 criminal gangs.

"They wanted to instill fear, but they aroused our ire," Defense Minister Gian Carlo Loffredo said on social media.

By Thursday, Noboa said more than 38 countries had offered to help Ecuador tackle a wave of violence unleashed by "terrorist" gangs linked to drug trafficking.

Several countries have lately expressed solidarity with Ecuador, denouncing narco-terrorism as a hemispheric scourge and offering military aid.

Riots erupted in several prisons in the country this past week, with inmates taking 178 people hostage at seven facilities, according to a report issued on Thursday by the nation's jail management agency.

"Ecuador has struggled with the influence of drug trafficking, exacerbated by issues stemming from the pandemic," said Wilson Merino, a councilman in the capital Quito.

Clashes have exploded after months of growing pressure that have challenged the nation's stability. Ecuador saw different criminal groups turn into serious criminal and terrorist organizations with narcotics stockpiles, he said.

The latest outburst of violence was sparked by the Jan 7 discovery of the prison escape of one of the country's most powerful narco bosses, Jose Adolfo Macias, known by his alias "Fito".

Hundreds of police officers and soldiers have been deployed in search for Fito.

As the drug mafia found a foothold in Ecuador in recent years, the country's murder rate quadrupled from 2018 to 2022.

Last year was the worst yet, with 7,800 murders and a record 220 metric tons of drugs seized.

The fight against corruption and drug trafficking has been confronted "head-on" by the government since former Ecuadorian president Guillermo Lasso took office in 2021, said Juan Fernando Flores, a former member of the National Assembly.

Noboa took over in November after campaigning on fighting rising crime and corruption.

Flores said authorities have seized nearly 600 tons of illegal drugs and recently uncovered "a far-reaching network of corruption linking traffickers to judges, politicians, police and prosecutors that allowed them to do and undo justice itself".

However, officials noted long-lasting stability is key. Flores called for deeper discussion around reforming the justice system and bolstering both the National Police and Armed Forces.

"There is a true political consensus around the need to advance in a spirit of national unity, which is pivotal," he said.

Agencies contributed to this story.

The writers are freelance journalists for China Daily.

Most Viewed in 24 Hours
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349