Ecuadorians Vote on Referendum to Tighten Security Measures Amid Rising Violence

Ecuadorians Vote on Referendum to Tighten Security Measures Amid Rising Violence

Ecuadorians are currently participating in a referendum aimed at implementing stricter security measures in response to the escalating gang-related crime in the country. The referendum, consisting of 11 questions, primarily focuses on enhancing security measures to combat the rising violence that has recently claimed the lives of two mayors within a week. Proposed measures include the deployment of the army in the fight against gangs, facilitating the extradition of accused criminals, and imposing longer prison sentences for convicted drug traffickers.

The surge in insecurity in Ecuador has been attributed to gangs with connections to transnational cartels, utilizing the country’s ports as conduits for drug shipments to the United States and Europe. President Daniel Noboa, who declared a state of “internal armed conflict” in January, emphasized the significance of the referendum’s outcome in shaping the country’s policies to confront violence and organized crime. The voting process commenced at the Electoral Council in the capital city of Quito.

Noboa’s declaration of a state of emergency earlier this year was prompted by the escape of a drug lord, which led to a wave of violence orchestrated by approximately 20 criminal groups. Gang members resorted to kidnapping numerous individuals, including police officers and prison guards, and even carried out a shooting in a live TV studio. Random executions were also threatened. In response, Noboa deployed soldiers to regain control over the country’s prisons, which had become hotbeds for gang activities and witnessed the deaths of over 460 inmates in the past three years.

Despite these efforts, violence has persisted, leading Noboa to interpret it as a sign that narcoterrorism and its allies are actively seeking opportunities to terrorize the nation. Ecuador has witnessed the targeted killings of at least a dozen politicians since January last year, including the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in August. The recent murders of two mayors within a week have further intensified the urgency for stricter measures.

The referendum seeks popular support for Noboa’s plans to intensify actions against those responsible for such acts. The proposed measures include expanding military and police powers, implementing stricter gun controls, and imposing harsher penalties for terrorism and drug trafficking. Additionally, Noboa proposes amending the constitution to enable the extradition of Ecuadorians wanted abroad for organized crime-related offenses.

Approximately 13.6 million out of Ecuador’s 17.7 million inhabitants are eligible to cast their votes in favor of or against the proposed measures during the ten-hour voting period. While crime prevention takes precedence in the majority of the referendum questions, Ecuador also grapples with widespread corruption, a crippling electricity shortage, and a diplomatic dispute with Mexico.

Author: CrimeDoor

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