Ecuador and Its Difficult Security Situation

Indicators such as extortion increased by 300% in 2022, which would demonstrate the complicated security situation in Ecuador. President Guillermo Lasso has not been able to adequately respond.

Guayaquil Penitentiary

Photo: G.K.

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Ecuador: Una difícil situación de seguridad

Ecuador, like most Latin American countries, is experiencing a complex security situation. However, it is striking how the numbers in the Andean country have worsened recently. According to figures from the NGO Insight Crime, today in Ecuador there is a homicide rate of 25.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. A figure higher than Mexico (25.2), Brazil (25), Guatemala (17.3), Costa Rica (12.2), Panamá (11.5), Uruguay (11.2), El Salvador (7, 8), Paraguay (8), Nicaragua (6.7) and Chile (4.6). It is only surpassed by Colombia (26.1), Honduras (35.8) and Venezuela (40.4) in Latin America. There is no record of Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia.

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Crime is believed to have increased since 2021, when conflicts between criminal gangs left Jorge Luis Zambrano, leader of Los Choneros, dead. This caused a war between criminal groups that has led to a series of massacres inside and outside prisons.

According to as compiled by the newspaper El País of Spain, in 2022 9,049 complaints of extortion were registered, compared to 3,033 in 2021, which represents an increase of almost 300%. But the concern is greater, since in the first month of 2023 1,048 have already been registered. This, always apart from the underreporting that exists due to fear of reprisals or lack of trust in the judicial system.

According to Insight Crime, the main driver of the increase in crime in Ecuador is the increase in the arrival of cocaine. With Colombia as the main producer of cocaine in the world to the north, the arrival of this substance is difficult to control. Even murders of police officers in Ecuador are also on the rise. A strategy that drug cartels used or are using in Colombia and Mexico at the time, today, seems to be a harsh reality facing the Andean country. Which also shows a clear war between criminal groups and police forces.

The situation is so complex that President Guillermo Lasso himself promoted a constitutional referendum that sought to obtain more tools in the fight against crime. The security consultations sought to allow the extradition of transnational criminals and give greater autonomy to the prosecution.

Crisis in Ecuador and Increased Migration

But the delicate situation that the Andean country is experiencing is not only reflected in the insecurity indicators. Recently, there were record numbers of migrants from Ecuador. EFE assured at the time that of the 248,284 migrants who crossed the Darién jungle in 2022, 11% represented migrants from Ecuador.

According to the US authorities, during the last quarter of 2022, they registered more than 35,500 detentions, expulsions, or deportations of Ecuadorians, exceeding the 25,000 in the previous twelve months. If it continues in this way, it could surpass the records of 2021 when 97,000 arrests were registered.

On the Streets and in the Jails

One of the sources of violence in Ecuador are the maximum security prisons. Prisons have been the scene of massacres such as the one that occurred on February 23, 2021, which left 79 inmates murdered in 4 detention centers; or that of November 12, which left a balance of 65 deaths in the Guayaquil prison. Or like the massacre at the Guayaquil Penitentiary on September 28, 2021, which left 123 dead, this being the deadliest.

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