Ecuador Battles Surge in Violence as President Leads Crackdown on Gangs

Ecuador finds itself in the midst of a security crisis as violence continues to escalate, prompting President Daniel Noboa to take decisive action against criminal gangs. The surge in crime has left many Ecuadorians living in fear, with daily routines disrupted and businesses affected. Last year witnessed the highest number of murders in the country’s modern history, and the trend shows no signs of abating. In an effort to address the situation, President Noboa has signed executive decrees to strengthen government security powers and amend the constitution, paving the way for a nationwide referendum.

The root causes of Ecuador’s security crisis can be traced back to several factors. The growth of the global cocaine trade has played a significant role, with Ecuador becoming an important hub for drug exportation due to its strategic location between Peru and Colombia, the two largest cocaine-producing countries in the world. The country’s Pacific coast provides ideal conditions for maritime cocaine shipping, attracting the attention of international narco-trafficking networks, including Mexican cartels and Balkan criminal gangs.

Additionally, the peace deal in neighboring Colombia created a power vacuum that allowed other armed groups to take over lucrative drug-trafficking routes along the border. Dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) moved their operations to Ecuador, further fueling violence in the region.

Corruption within Ecuador’s institutions has also contributed to the proliferation of criminal networks. Gangs maintain a presence in the country’s prisons, with some parts of the facilities being self-governed by gang members. Experts point to systemic corruption within the political and judicial structures, enabling organized crime to operate with relative impunity.

The weakening of the justice system under successive presidents has further exacerbated the violence. Former President Rafael Correa faced accusations of pressuring judges and interfering in judicial outcomes, while his successor, Lenin Moreno, eliminated the Ministry of Justice, leading to a lack of control over the country’s prisons. President Noboa now faces the daunting task of reducing the escalating violence, implementing a state of emergency and designating gangs as “terrorist” organizations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also worsened Ecuador’s security situation, with the weakened economy and increased poverty providing fertile ground for criminal organizations to recruit new members. The pandemic’s impact on the country’s healthcare system and high death toll further strained the government’s resources and attention.

While President Noboa’s measures have resulted in a temporary reduction in daily homicides, the murder rate remains on track to match the previous year’s record. The president’s actions are seen as reactive rather than addressing the root causes of the problem. Experts emphasize the need for international cooperation and efforts to reduce the demand for cocaine, as well as addressing poverty and government stability within Ecuador.

Author: CrimeDoor

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