Violence in Ecuador | The army takes over the streets of a country “terrorized” by gang violence

(Quito) Hundreds of soldiers patrol the almost deserted streets of the Ecuadorian capital on Wednesday, after the violence of the last two days by gangs linked to drug trafficking which left at least ten dead and plunged the country into “terror” .

Soldiers are visible in particular in the empty streets surrounding the presidential palace, in the center of the capital, while in the north, La Carolina Park, one of the largest in the city of three million inhabitants, is empty.

Few cars circulate in Quito, just like in the large port of Guayaquil (southwest), where businesses and boutiques remain closed.

“There is fear, you have to be careful, look here and there, if I take this bus what will happen? » testifies, on condition of anonymity, a 68-year-old woman, who goes to work in the north of Quito. She claims to be “terrorized” by the ongoing violence in the country.


Soldiers are visible in the streets of Quito.

The Ministry of Education on Tuesday ordered all schools to close until Friday.

Sunday’s escape from Guayaquil’s high-security prison by the feared leader of the powerful Choneros gang, Adolfo Macias, alias “Fito,” and mutinies in many of the country’s prisons triggered a muscular response from President Daniel Noboa, 36. , elected in November on the promise of restoring security in the country.

Iron hand

On Monday, the youngest president in Ecuador’s history declared a state of emergency for 60 days, and on Tuesday declared the country in a state of “internal armed conflict”, ordering “the mobilization and intervention of forces armed forces and national police” to “guarantee national sovereignty and integrity”.

“Fito” had already escaped from a high security prison in 2013, before being recaptured after three months. His name made the headlines after the assassination in early August of one of the main presidential candidates, who had reported death threats from the leader of the Choneros shortly before his execution.

This gang, of around 8,000 men according to experts, has become the main player in the flourishing drug trade in Ecuador. Fabricio Colon Picole, leader of another powerful gang, Los Lobos, also escaped on Tuesday.

Several mutinies and hostage-taking of guards have affected various prisons since Monday, relayed by frightening videos broadcast on social networks showing the captives threatened by the knives of masked inmates and the execution of at least two guards by firearm and hanging.

More than a hundred guards and administrative agents are being held hostage in at least five prisons, according to the prison administration, which communicates very little on the subject.

“Very alarmed”

Armed men even burst into the set of a public television station in Guayaquil on Tuesday, taking journalists and employees hostage until the police intervened.


Police present the inmates who stormed the TC television studio during a live television broadcast.

The United States, the European Union, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and even Venezuela have rejected this violence. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “very alarmed by the deterioration of the situation” in Ecuador, his spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said on Wednesday.

France and Russia have advised their nationals against traveling to the country and Peru has declared a state of emergency along its border.

The security forces, for their part, broadcast images of their interventions since Sunday in various penitentiaries, showing hundreds of detainees in their underwear, hands on their heads and lying unceremoniously on the ground.

These images recall the communication of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, credited with having restored, thanks to his “war” against gangs, security in his country, at the cost of restricting the rights of detainees according to rights organizations of the person.

Ecuador, once a haven of peace, is wracked by violence after becoming the main export point for cocaine produced in neighboring Peru and Colombia. Assassinations there increased by 800% between 2018 and 2023, going from six to 46 per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2023, 7,800 homicides were recorded and 220 tonnes of drugs seized.


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