On Wednesday, Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa declared his nation to be in a state of conflict with drug organizations. These groups currently have over 130 prison employees as hostages and even temporarily took control of a television station during a live broadcast. This surge of aggression has caused the streets to become empty and desolate.
The attacks have resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people, including police officers.
During a live broadcast on Tuesday, gunmen were captured by police special forces after storming a TV station, resulting in widespread coverage of the event.
Revised: The social media videos depicted a disturbing sequence of additional assaults, such as car bombings, the killing of law enforcement on the streets, the possible lynching of prison guards, and attempted seizures of hospitals and a university in Guayaquil. The Ecuadorian police verified that two officers lost their lives.
During a radio interview on Wednesday, Noboa stated that we are engaged in combating narco-terrorism. He also addressed the videos depicting the alleged killings of prison guards, stating that the purpose is to instill fear in the public and force the president to submit, which he will not allow to happen.
He stated: “I express my sympathy for the families. We are currently in a state of war and surrender is not an option.”
Due to the surge in violence, the president of Ecuador took action on Tuesday by issuing a decree that labels almost twenty gangs as terrorist organizations. The decree also grants the Ecuadorian military the power to eliminate these criminal groups while adhering to international humanitarian laws.
Admiral Jaime Vela, leader of the armed forces’ joint command, stated that their actions were intended to instill fear in the public. He also declared that any terrorist group mentioned in the decree would now be considered a military target.
In October, Noboa was chosen as a leader with the promise to address the issue of violent crime. As a result of recent incidents of jail violence, including prisoners taking guards hostage and the escape of Adolfo Macías, also known as Fito, the leader of Los Choneros gang, Noboa declared a state of emergency lasting two months on Monday evening.
The government claims that the recent violence is in response to Noboa’s proposal to construct two high-security prisons for gang leaders, which is based on the design of El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele. Bukele has built the largest prison in the Americas for 70,000 alleged gang members, but there are growing concerns about human rights violations and the incarceration of innocent individuals.
Last week, Noboa stated that the proposed prisons would be identical to those in El Salvador. He jokingly invited supporters of the Salvadorian president, known as “Bukele lovers”, to come and see for themselves.
In the past, moving gang leaders to different prisons has resulted in outbreaks of violence, resulting in the deaths of numerous inmates in recent times.
According to Ecuador’s prison service, 139 employees and guards are currently being held captive in prisons. There have been unconfirmed videos circulating showing the possible lynching and murder of prison staff. Eleven guards have been freed, as reported by the prison service.
Many cities in Ecuador shut down their businesses and offices, while students were instructed to continue their studies through online methods for the remainder of the week.
Video recordings captured clashes between military personnel and unidentified armed individuals in the southern region of Ecuador. Additional posts on social media depicted armed individuals on the streets and halted traffic.
Officials in Guayaquil reported that five hospitals experienced “takeover” events, which were subsequently resolved by law enforcement and military personnel. The details of these incidents remain unclear.
The streets of the city were strangely silent and there was little evidence of the significant military presence that had been pledged by the president of Ecuador.
On Wednesday afternoon, the usually lively La Bahia market in Guayaquil was eerily quiet, with only a few of its many metal stalls open for business.
“We are completely immobilized. The entire city is in a state of paralysis,” stated Juan Ciro Granados Criollo, a 70-year-old watch repairer. He could only recall one other time when the region was this deserted: during the Covid pandemic.
Martha Sanchez, a 38-year-old owner of a store, expressed feeling overwhelmed with uncertainty. She admitted to being afraid and urged the government to take strong action against the criminal attacks. She described the current situation as chaotic.
The nation of Peru has declared a state of emergency on its northern border with Ecuador on Tuesday evening. Prime Minister Alberto Otárola stated that the declaration would send an undisclosed amount of military personnel to aid local law enforcement, and that the defense and interior ministers would also head to the border.
Brian A Nichols, the assistant secretary for western hemisphere affairs at the US state department, expressed his deep concern on X regarding the recent violence and kidnappings in Ecuador. He stated that the United States is in solidarity with the people of Ecuador.
Noboa announced that the country will start expelling foreign inmates, particularly those from Colombia, this week in an effort to decrease the number of prisoners and lessen costs.
According to Noboa, approximately 1,500 citizens of Colombia are currently incarcerated in Ecuador. He also stated that individuals from Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela make up 90% of the foreign prisoners.
The justice minister of Colombia stated on Tuesday during a radio interview that he is open to collaborating with Ecuador. However, according to Colombian law, repatriations must be evaluated individually and can only be granted if requested by the prisoners themselves.
Colombia, similar to other Latin American nations, has voiced its backing for the government of Ecuador. On Wednesday, it announced plans to enhance military presence and monitoring along their 600km (370-mile) border.