Ecuador Declares State of Emergency to Combat Drug Gang Violence

Ecuador's new president declares state of emergency to combat rising drug gang violence and crime, deploying military and designating gangs as terrorists, but faces challenges from opposition and potential human rights concerns.

Emmanuel Abara Benson
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Ecuador Declares State of Emergency to Combat Drug Gang Violence

Ecuador Declares State of Emergency to Combat Drug Gang Violence

Ecuador's newly elected president, Guillermo Lasso, has declared a state of emergency in response to rising drug gang violence and crime in the country. The move comes after two mayors were killed in the week leading up to the election, highlighting the severity of the situation.

Under the state of emergency, Lasso has deployed the military and police to several cities to combat the criminal organizations. The government has also designated 22 criminal gangs as terrorist organizations, following the escape of Fabricio Colón Pico, the leader of the infamous Los Lobos gang, from prison in January.

Ecuadorians recently voted in a referendum to allow the military to patrol the streets and for longer prison sentences and the extradition of violent criminals. The measures also include facilitating asset seizures of suspected criminals and adding permanent military checkpoints on roads leading to prisons. However, some of the measures require constitutional reforms, which could be delayed by the opposition-held National Assembly.

Why this matters: The rising violence and influence of drug gangs in Ecuador threatens the stability and security of the country. The government's decisive actions aim to restore order and protect citizens, but the effectiveness of the measures remains to be seen as the crisis deepens.

The arrest of Colón Pico has raised concerns about potential retaliation from the gangs. Experts warn that military intervention alone is not a viable long-term solution and that the government needs to target the leadership and financing of the criminal organizations to effectively address the crisis. As one expert noted, "Investigations must lead to effective legal action and convictions to truly impact the wealth of those financing organized crime in Ecuador."

To further combat organized crime's financial structures, Ecuador is establishing a specialized financial crime investigation unit targeting tax and customs fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion. The country is also receiving support from allies like the United States, which donated a C-130 aircraft to enhance Ecuador's capabilities in responding to transnational crime.

The government's actions have been controversial, with some Ecuadorians seeing them as necessary measures to address the country's problems, while others have criticized the potential for human rights violations. The detention of former Vice President Jorge Glas at the Mexican embassy has also led to a diplomatic crisis between Ecuador and Mexico, with the Church being called upon to mediate the situation.

Key Takeaways

  • Ecuador's president declares state of emergency to combat drug gang violence.
  • Military and police deployed, 22 gangs designated as terrorist organizations.
  • Ecuadorians vote for military patrols, longer sentences, and extradition of criminals.
  • Concerns over retaliation and need for targeting gang leadership and financing.
  • Diplomatic crisis with Mexico over detention of former VP, Church called to mediate.