The 60-day emergency measure, arranged for the coastal provinces of Guayas, Manabí and Esmeraldas (the latter, bordering Colombia), includes a nightly curfew for the areas with the most violence in towns such as the port of Guayaquil, commercial center of the country.
In his declared war on drug trafficking, conservative President Guillermo Lasso, who has been in power for eleven months, once again ordered the state of emergency, arguing a serious internal commotion due to insecurity.
Crime in Ecuador has grown hand in hand with drug traffickers, with 1,255 dead -among them beheaded and mutilated- in the first quarter of this year compared to 2,500 in all of 2021 and 1,400 in 2020, according to official figures.
About 440 crimes have occurred in Guayaquil (the capital of Guayas) and the neighboring town of Durán, both of which are the most insecure. 60% of all homicides have occurred in the three provinces that are now patrolled by the military.
– With rifle in hand –
Armed with rifles, hundreds of uniformed men immediately began to carry out controls in hot spots such as Cerro Las Cabras de Durán, AFP journalists confirmed.
“I think the public feels safe, because the presence of the military, of the police, makes us feel a little more secure,” Diego Cuenca, a resident of Durán, where two suspended bodies appeared in February, told AFP. of a pedestrian bridge in the style of the crimes of the Mexican cartels.
This town with more than 300,000 inhabitants is considered a drug warehouse and where micro-trafficking, according to authorities, moves up to 1.8 million dollars a month.
“This is terrible. Insecurity affects us all. We can no longer be in places with ease as one was before. For example, if you go to a restaurant, you can no longer. Now you buy to go because it is no longer possible due to insecurity,” said Javier Mora, another resident of Durán.
Bordering Colombia and Peru, the largest producers of cocaine in the world, Ecuador serves as an exit point for large drug shipments mainly through Guayaquil, the largest port, through which it is exported mainly to the United States and Europe.
In 2021, the country seized an annual record of 210 tons of drugs, mainly cocaine. So far in 2022, confiscations have reached 75 tons.
– “Captive state” –
“Our society will not be subjected, our peace will never be sacrificed to anyone’s dirty business,” Lasso said when announcing the state of emergency. “We are going to take the fight against criminals to the very territory where they and their dirty merchandise are trying to hide.”
For security expert Fredy Rivera, an effective fight against drug trafficking must include the “cleansing” of State structures, which have been infiltrated and where corruption is rampant.
“Organized crime has the Ecuadorian state and society in ambush, captive,” the director of the Latin American Journal of Security Studies URVIO told AFP.
Various drug gangs face each other in the streets and prisons of Ecuador for control of the storage, markets and routes for the shipment of cocaine to the United States and Europe.
In several prisons there have been bloody armed clashes between prisoners who are members of drug organizations, with 350 deaths since February 2021 in massacres that have become one of the worst in Latin America.