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State Of Exception: What Is Happening In Ecuador?

The Ecuadorian president, Guillermo Lasso, decrees, for the third time this year, a state of emergency due to the security crisis in the country. What is happening with the violence in Ecuador?

William Laso

Photo: TW-LassoGuillermo

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Estado de excepción: ¿Qué está pasando con la violencia en Ecuador?

Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency throughout the country after a bomb exploded in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Guayaquil, leaving 5 people dead and 17 injured. This serious fact has not only increased the crime problem that the South American country is experiencing, but has also exposed the problem of violence in Ecuador that has been living for a long time.

For more than 2 years, crime in Ecuador has drawn attention throughout the region. Just 6 months ago, 2 bodies appeared hanging from a bridge in the city, which has been the epicenter of crime in the country.

This is why Lasso ordered, for the third time in less than 8 months, a state of emergency in the city. But this measure did not solve the underlying problem at that time, the question is why will it solve it now?

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Also, during the last state of emergency in the provinces of Guayas, Esmeraldas, and Manabí, there were almost 500 deaths in 60 days. Well above average.

A gray year

So far in 2022, Ecuador already has 2,116 violent deaths, close to exceeding the 2,496 deaths in all of 2021, just at the start of the second semester. The province of Guayas (whose capital is Guayaquil) the focus.

The situation is so critical that this year, Guayaquil entered the ranking of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world, closing the list with 30.01 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. This, despite the fact that only the figures for 2021 were taken into account, suggests a perilous 2022.

A growing crime

Ecuador, and especially Guayaquil, is experiencing a criminal phenomenon only compared to the worst years of violence in Colombia, Mexico or Central America. Currently, Ecuadorian gangs have copied the tactics of more bloodthirsty criminal groups from these other territories and have implemented the selective homicide of police officers.

Beneath all this wave of crime lies a war for control of the red zones of drug trafficking, where illegal groups have found an unlimited economic source.

As reported by Insight Crime "Ecuador's criminal violence is rapidly outpacing the capabilities of law enforcement while exposing painful truths of corruption within their ranks." This demonstrates a much bigger root problem than what Lasso seems to want to address.

According to information compiled by the agency dedicated to investigating crime, one of the consequences of the upsurge in violence in Ecuador is the "proliferation of Mexican and Albanian trafficking groups." In addition, it highlights that the increase in the murders of police officers may also be due to links between State agents and illegal groups.

But they also warn that many of these are also forced to collaborate under threats to them or their families, similar to the famous phrase of capo Pablo Escobar: "silver or lead."

A war that continues in prisons

Sadly, jail or prison for criminals does not end up being the best way to reduce violence. Ecuador has witnessed how this violence is transported to prisons.

In May, Ecuador experienced its most recent prison riot, which left more than 40 dead. In April, another similar event left 20 inmates dead. In all of 2021, the prison clashes in Ecuador left at least 316 prisoners dead. 

This shows that despite the changes at the head of the government ministry (3 ministers in just over a year) there has been no solution.