‘Shooting in the streets’: Canadian living in Ecuador describes recent gang violence

A Canadian who has lived in Ecuador for 18 years said he and his family feel very unsafe and unsafe as gang violence increases in the country.

“We really don’t know what the next steps from the government are going to look like,” Jeff Karram told CTV National News.

He said people in the country live under an 11 p.m. curfew, shops are closed, classes canceled and most people stay home.

“Everyone in our company is working from home right now. If there is someone who has to move, that is the exception, everyone else is staying home,” Karram said.

In Guayaquil, a group of armed men took over a television channel during a live afternoon news broadcast on Tuesday. The group, armed with explosives and firearms, threatened and attacked employees of the TC Televisión network station for 15 minutes on air.

No one died and 13 suspects were arrested, but the violent transmission surprised much of the region and prompted a widespread government response.

The hostages described moments of terror: one cameraman was shot in the leg and another had his arm broken.

The television station is 20 minutes from Karram’s house.

“With everything that happened yesterday (Tuesday) in the streets, because unfortunately there were people shot in the streets, there was one gentleman who unfortunately just got hit and killed by a strange bullet,” Karram said. “He was shot no more than three minutes from where I work and about 10 minutes from where I live.”

More than 2,300 Canadians are registered in Ecuador. Eighteen of them have contacted Global Affairs Canada in recent days with questions, including about travel-related issues.

Most of Ecuador’s population is hiding in their homes as gang violence over control of drug trafficking explodes in the South American country. Shootings, kidnappings and murders continue as police and armed forces roam the streets, with their sights set on drug cartels and gang members after Ecuador’s president, Daniel Noboa, declared his country was now at war.

Authorities said they had arrested nearly 330 people for suspected acts of terrorism as of Wednesday afternoon, showing a forceful response aimed at reassuring the country of 18 million people.

In the past five years, gangs competing for control of drug trafficking have taken over nearly a quarter of the country’s prisons.

Noboa promised to take strong action after his election in November. On Monday he declared a state of emergency following the prison escape of drug trafficker Adolfo Macías, also known as Fito. Gangs have taken prison guards and police officers hostage and videos of executions have circulated online.

Karram, originally from Toronto, said he and his wife have discussed moving out of the country as crime has worsened over the past two years. However, he said it’s not that simple for him.

“You’re looking at someone like me who lives in Ecuador and you say ‘Why doesn’t that person get out of there?’ But the reality is that I have my job here… my wife’s whole family is here,” she said, adding that Ecuador used to be a peaceful place to live.

“Ecuador is a wonderful place, but at the end of the day, security is everything.”

Karram said he and his family will leave if the violence escalates into a full-blown war; However, “I’m just praying it doesn’t come to that.”


With files from The Associated Press

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