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Ecuador: a country trapped in violence

Local gangs, penetrated by Mexican cartels, dispute territory

On January 17, César Suárez, the prosecutor who was investigating the takeover of a TV channel by criminals, was murdered in Guayaquil. On March 29, six adults and five children, in the province of Manabí, were kidnapped by 20 armed men and, later, five of the older ones were found dead. That Friday, also in the same province, but in Manta, four people were shot by unknown assailants outside a home.

Five days earlier, Brigitte García, mayor of the coastal municipality of San Vicente, who at 27 was the youngest mayor in the country, was shot to death along with her communications advisor. Seven people were murdered while watching a soccer game in the province of Los Ríos, massacres that are repeated over and over again in Ecuador, in a wave of uncontrollable violence, despite the fact that in January Daniel Noboa became the first president of that country. country to decree a state of emergency due to the existence of “an internal armed conflict.”

In dispute

Fernando Casado, a Spaniard who works at the Bolivarian University of Quito as a professor of Human Rights and International Law, details that this is a nation “in dispute over drug trafficking. Due to the so-called cockroach effect, drug trafficking and organized crime go to places with greater institutional weakness.”

“Today, most of the cocaine that Europe receives comes from the Ecuadorian Pacific basin, with ships that make a long detour through the Panama Canal, due to the weakening of institutions in the last seven years. Before there was greater control in the ports, with better equipped police. Now it is not like that, that is why drug trafficking uses Ecuador as a safe port,” he explains.

Casado, who has also worked as a teacher at the Institute of Higher National Studies of Ecuador, adds that “what is behind the violence is a confrontation between different local gangs, but controlled by the so-called Albanian mafia, which introduces drugs. in Europe and also by the Mexican cartels, which dispute Ecuadorian territory to transport cocaine. Then we have the cartelized gangs related to the Mexican cartels, disputing the territory.”

The columnist and author of several books refers to the existence of a sort of triad: the production of drugs in Colombia, which then crosses the border, Mexican cartelization and the dispute between the internal gangs of the territories, with the addition as the fourth element of the Albanian mafia and the distribution of drugs to the European continent.

There is another aspect to consider: “Studies that have been carried out in the United States have determined that 17% of the cocaine route to this country comes from the Galapagos Islands, and an even higher percentage, even higher than that which arrives from Colombia, would leave Ecuadorian ports.”

Noboa

Regarding the management of President Daniel Noboa in terms of security, Fernando Casado assures that “he has tried to imitate (Nayib) Bukele (president of El Salvador), but he has achieved it only in the communication aspect: there is a great propaganda display of the so-called Operation Phoenix, there have been interventions in prisons, but the results remain to be seen, because the crime figures, if they have decreased, have done so in a minimal way. “Ecuador continues to be the most violent country in Latin America.”

The decline in the popularity of President Daniel Noboa

The decree by which President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency due to internal armed conflict does not seem to have had the desired momentum to increase his popularity, according to different polls.

On May 14, the company Comunicaliza published studies in which it revealed that its approval level had dropped to 59,3%, still high, but significantly below the 80% it registered in the first month of the year. In addition to this, the questions that he snuck into the April 21 referendum about the return of international arbitrations and the job insecurity that hourly contracts allow were rejected, which seems to warn that he does not have a blank check, at least to medium term.

“He is using security as a battering ram to try to show that he has been highly effective in this short period of his presidency, making it his calling card for the elections. However, if the state of internal conflict was established in January and has not yet borne great fruit, the situation is also costing them at the image level,” explains Fernando Casado.

“There is already significant wear and tear and we will have to see how the situation develops, because its prospects are quite bleak in the face of the next elections, since there would still be around six months left, and the fall in its popularity is quite rapid at the moment. ”, points out the analyst.

Rafael Correa's legacy in security matters

President Rafael Correa, according to Fernando Casado's analysis, “left Ecuador being the second calmest country in Latin America, this region being the most violent on the planet, in which fewer murders were committed per 100.000 inhabitants, just five, when he received that average in 13 deaths.”

The author of several books also asks: “How then, in seven years, does Ecuador go from a situation of great security to the most insecure country with the highest number of violent deaths?” and his response does not take long:

“Because there is a lowering of arms. Lenín Moreno drastically reduced the budget for security, justice and police by 50%; the latter is no longer provided, there is no investment in the corruption monitoring processes in that body, giving rise to the exponential growth of the number of unsolved crimes.”

Fernando Casado points out that “today this is the country with the highest number of violent deaths in the region. In 2023 there were 44 deaths per 100.000 inhabitants, the figure left by Correa was multiplied by 8, which takes on dramatic overtones in the government of Guillermo Lasso where criminal groups penetrate State institutions.”

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