With its lengthy coastline and proximity to coca-producing areas, Ecuador is the latest Latin American country to become a hub of drug trafficking plagued by rising violent crime. Murder rates have climbed over the last half-decade, and the country has recorded more homicides in 2022 than in any previous year. Successive presidents have tried to curb the trend, some with aggressive policing and others with a mix of security and socio-economic reform policies aimed at dimming the allure of illicit livelihoods. Through advocacy and periodic reporting, Crisis Group works to promote the latter approach to crime prevention, which has a better record of reducing violence throughout the region.

CrisisWatch Ecuador

Unchanged Situation

Voters welcomed President Noboa’s plans to tighten security, probes into state complicity with organised crime continued, and Quito drew global condemnation after storming Mexican embassy.

Voters backed Noboa’s tough security measures in referendum. Ecuadorians 21 April voted on Noboa’s hard-line security strategy in referendum. Majority of voters backed all nine security-related proposals, including stepped-up military role in fight against organised crime and longer sentences for offences like drug trafficking, but rejected his economic proposals. Meanwhile, 90-day state of emergency 8 April ended amid uptick in violence early month, particularly in Manabí and Guayas provinces. Minutes before measure’s expiry, Noboa issued decree recognising persistence of internal armed conflict, which permits continued military presence on streets and designation of prisons as security zones; Noboa 30 April decreed state of emergency in El Oro, Guayas, Los Ríos, Manabí and Santa Elena provinces due to insecurity. Targeting of political figures continued; notably, unknown gunmen 17 April killed mayor of mining town in Azuay province (south), 19 April killed mayor in El Oro province (south). Police 22 April recaptured fugitive leader of Los Lobos gang, Fabricio Colón Pico, who escaped prison in Jan.

Authorities detained over a dozen in corruption probe. Public Prosecutor’s Office 3 April requested pre-trial detention for thirteen of fourteen individuals arrested as part of “Plaga Case”, including judges, police officers and lawyers; suspects allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for facilitating release of convicted criminals. Plaga Case is one of several high-level investigations into ties between organised crime, govt and judiciary. 

Authorities stormed Mexican embassy, drawing international community’s ire. Authorities 5 April forced their way into Mexican embassy in capital Quito and arrested former VP Jorge Glas, who had been awaiting response to his political asylum request after being indicted on corruption charges. Mexico 6 April severed diplomatic ties with Ecuador, while international community condemned incursion. Mexico 11 April brought charges before International Court of Justice, requesting that it suspend Ecuador’s UN membership.

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In The News

18 يناير 2024
Political misrule in Ecuador paled in comparison to what you saw … in Peru, and now Ecuador seems far worse off than Peru and Colombia in terms of basic human security. Miami Herald

Ivan Briscoe

Senior Director for Policy

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