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Gang crime: Ecuadorian government sends soldiers

After President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in Ecuador following a series of brutal attacks by criminal gangs, police and soldiers increased their presence in affected cities. The nation was “surprised by the actions of the drug mafia, which along with common murderers and criminals are trying to instill fear in Ecuadorians,” Defense Minister Luis Lara said today.

28 suspects were arrested today in Guayaquil, capital of Guayas province, Interior Minister Juan Zapata said. Weapons, ammunition and explosives were seized. Jorge Arguello, 36, the head of a publishing house, said there was “fear in the streets” in Guayaquil. He himself is afraid to leave the house after seeing motorcycles associated with gangs and gunmen.

Curfew from 9pm

Members of drug gangs had already killed five police officers and taken eight prison guards hostage in the two coastal provinces of Guayas and Esmeraldas. According to authorities, a civilian later died from gunshot wounds. The wave of attacks was apparently triggered by plans by the Snai Correctional Authority to transfer around 200 detainees from the Guayas 1 detention center in Guayaquil to other prisons.

According to authorities, drug gang members carried out at least 18 bomb and firearm attacks yesterday at police stations, gas stations, a hospital and a bus station in Guayaquil and neighboring Duran county. At the same time, prisoners at Esmeraldas Prison, the capital of Esmeraldas province, took eight guards hostage, prison officials said.

President Lasso imposed a 45-day state of emergency in both provinces, combined with a nighttime curfew starting at 9pm. Classes have been suspended in some regions. In a radio and television address, Lasso called the gangs’ “acts of sabotage and terror” “an open declaration of war against the rule of law, the government and all of you citizens.”