Violence grips Ecuador as it leaves a trail of death and destruction in the streets and jails. President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in three provinces of the country after the murder of the mayor of Manta, Agustin Intriago, victim of a fatal shooting. These events, added to the increase in crime in Guayaquil, have generated fear among the population and concerns before the presidential elections.
President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Manabi, Los Rios and Duran (Guayas) on July 24 due to a serious internal situation resulting from the violent wave of recent days. The decision is made after the murder of the mayor of Manta, Agustin Intriago.
The measure includes a curfew in these provinces and in the canton of Duran, which will be from 10:00 p.m. (local time) to 5:00 a.m., according to what President Lasso reported during a meeting of the Security Committee called after the murder of Intriago.
🔵 The Minister @henrycucalon next to the president @LassoGuillermothe high command of the police and the armed forces, ministers of the security sector and local authorities participate in the Security Committee in which the state of emergency was decreed for Los Rios, Manabi and the Duran canton. pic.twitter.com/gmS59DdhpW
– Ministry of Government Ecuador (@MinGobiernoEc) July 24, 2023
On Sunday, the port city of Manta reported a shooting during a works inspection that resulted in the death of mayor Intriago and another person, while four others were injured. The motive of the is still a matter of investigation, but it has left the population frightened and looking for answers.
In the first half of this year, 1,390 violent deaths were registered in Ecuadornearly matching the total for the entire previous year and accounting for nearly half of the 3,500 cases nationwide.
However, the impact of the violence has not been limited to the streets, it has also had an echo in the country’s prisons.
Tension in prisons: inmates on strike and detained agents
Over the weekend there was a violent confrontation between gangs in an Ecuadorian prison. The balance: six inmates died and 11 were injured.
The disputes occurred between inmates belonging to rival organized crime gangs in the Litoral Penitentiary, also known as the Guayas Penitentiary Center number 1, located in the city of Guayaquil.
Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, is witnessing an alarming increase in drug-related violence. Murders, armed confrontations and cases of dismemberment have plunged its more than 2.8 million inhabitants into a climate of despair.
The increasing crime in the city has negatively affected the local economy and has generated widespread concern among citizens.
This prison violence became the latest outbreak in a series of riots that have rocked the country’s prisons since 2021.
The situation has been so worrying that inmates at 13 prisons in Ecuador, including the prison where the latest deaths occurred, have started a hunger strike in protest. In five of them, 90 prison officers are being held after deadly confrontations at the Guayas penitentiary.
The authorities of the Comprehensive National Service for Persons Deprived of Liberty (SNAI) reported on the critical situation in several prison facilities in five provinces of the Andean country.
Violence in Ecuadorian prisons has been a scourge of special attention since 2020, leaving more than 450 prisoners murdered, according to the UN, in a series of massacres resulting from clashes between rival gangs seeking to control the detention centers.
The Ecuadorian prison system also faces serious problems of overcrowding, with some prisons operating at the limit of their capacity. The violence and the fight for control of drug trafficking routes, especially in coastal areas with strategic ports, made Ecuador a key point for trafficking to North America and Europe.
The fight against organized crime
The fight for control of drug transportation has been pointed out as one of the main causes behind the increase in violence in Guayaquil. Criminal groups are seeking territorial control within the city, which has exacerbated the fighting.
Ecuador has become a crucial point in the cocaine trafficking route, which has attracted the attention of powerful international cartels and mafias.
Thus, violence breaks out mainly in areas close to ports due to rivalries between criminal groups. Drug trafficking is a key factor in these disputes, and Guayaquil has been the scene of half of the 106 tons of drugs seized in 2023. Ecuador has seized a total of 205 tons of drugs in 2022, with cocaine being the most seized.
The question of security, at the center of the electoral debate
President Guillermo Lasso responded to this crisis with emergency measures, increasing the presence of security forces and declaring a state of emergency in the prison system. However, despite his efforts, violence continued to increase, prompting criticism of the effectiveness of the measures.
Presidential elections next month led candidates to promise improvements in security, the prison system, and justice and police forces, but “the violence demands a firm and coordinated response from the next president and his security team,” according to analysts who spoke to the Reuters news agency.
Although the campaign for the August 20 elections has not yet officially started, the eight candidates who want to replace Lasso have promised to make the country more secure, and three candidates out of the eight who are running have suspended their candidacies due to the situation of insecurity in the country.
With Reuters, EFE and local media
Source: France 24