Gang Violence Rises in Ecuador: Army Must Eliminate Gangs

Gangs are terrorist organizations and non-state warring parties that must be eliminated, President Daniel Nobowa explains.

In response to rising gang violence in Ecuador, President Daniel Noboa has sent armed forces against the South American country's powerful gangs. According to the order issued on Tuesday, the soldiers will conduct operations against around 20 criminal outfits. Earlier, armed men entered the premises of state television station TC Televisión in the port city of Guayaquil during a live broadcast.

Ecuador is now embroiled in an internal armed conflict in the fight against organized crime. Gangs are terrorist organizations and non-state warring parties that must be eliminated, the order continued. “All these groups are now military targets,” Army chief Jaime Vela said.

Shortly before, gunmen stormed the TC Television premises in the port city of Guayaquil during a live broadcast and took several journalists and staff hostage. Gunshots and people screaming were heard on the recordings.

Later, special police units brought the TV station back under control and arrested 13 suspects. Police said weapons and explosives were seized. Those arrested are on terrorism charges.

“We will not allow terrorist groups to disturb the peace”

The Defense Cabinet met at the government headquarters in Carondelet on Tuesday. “We will not allow terrorist groups to disrupt peace in the country,” President Nobowa said. Soldiers patrolled the historic center of the capital, Quito, in armored vehicles, Ecuavisa television reported. The Ministry of Education has announced that all schools in the country will remain closed until the end of this week.

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The South American government declared a state of emergency only on Monday due to the chaotic situation in the prisons. Criminal gangs fought violently in prisons and took guards hostage. According to prison authorities, Adolfo Macias alias “Fito”, the leader of the powerful “Los Soneros” gang, and Fabrizio Colón Pico, the leader of the “Los Lobos” gang, managed to escape.

The security situation in Ecuador has recently deteriorated dramatically. Last year's homicide rate of 46.5 murders per 100,000 citizens was the highest in the once-peaceful Andean nation's history and one of the highest in Latin America. Presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who had vowed to fight corruption, was shot dead after a campaign rally in August.

Several gangs with ties to powerful Mexican cartels struggle to control drug trafficking routes. Albanian drug traffickers are also now said to be involved. Ecuador is a major transit country for cocaine trafficked from South America to the US and Europe. (APA)

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