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Gang violence surged in coastal cities following mass prison transfers, prompting President Lasso to declare state of emergency in three provinces.
Criminal violence spiked across several cities, triggering state of emergency. Following transfer of 1,002 inmates from Guayaquil’s Guayas prison to other detention facilities controlled by rival gangs, criminal gangs 1 Nov launched at least 18 attacks, half of them in coastal cities of Guayaquil and Esmeraldas, leaving five police officers and one civilian dead. President Guillermo Lasso same day called incidents “a declaration of open war” and imposed state of emergency in Guayas and Esmeraldas provinces, 4 Nov extended measure to Santa Domingo de los Tsáchilas province. Police 2 Nov arrested 28 people while Defence Minister Luis Lara same day announced deployment of 1,400 soldiers to Guayaquil. According to Interior Minister Juan Zapata, police 1-15 Nov captured 2,878 suspects.
Deadly prison clashes between rival gangs continued. Amid threat of mass prisoner transfer disrupting gang control within prisons, fighting 2 Nov broke out at Guayas prison, leaving two dead and six injured; inmates from Esmeraldas prison in Esmeraldas province 1 Nov also kidnapped and then released eight prison officers. In capital Quito’s El Inca prison, violent confrontation between rival criminal groups Los Lobos and Las Ñetas 7 Nov left five inmates dead; hours later, President Lasso announced security forces had regained control of prison. In other incident at El Inca prison, at least ten inmates 18 Nov died during violent riots that broke out after authorities moved two gang leaders – “Bermudez” from Los Lobos and “Anchundia” from R7 – to maximum security facility. Authorities 28 Nov nearly doubled number of prison guards, announcing 1,461 new personnel.
Series of deadly prison riots prompted concern from UN over “dire situation” in prisons; high levels of violence persisted in Guayaquil city.
Spate of deadly prison riots erupted between rival criminal outfits. Amid soaring levels of violence between rival gangs in Ecuador’s prisons, clashes 3 Oct broke out at Cotopaxi prison in Latacunga town (centre), killing at least 16 and injuring 43. According to national prisons agency, prisoners fought with guns and knives before guards managed to re-establish control. Leandro Norero, alias “El Patrón”, a money launderer, drug-trafficking financier and member of Los Lobos gang, was among those killed. Gang feuds in prisons persisted after Norero’s death, indicating changing alliances. Notably, prison clash 5 Oct at Guayas prison in port city of Guayaquil left at least 13 dead and 22 injured. Second riot at Guayas prison 24 Oct, reportedly between two opposing gangs clashing over prison control, killed one and injured two. UN torture prevention sub-committee 6 Oct expressed concern over “dire situation” and called on state to take “immediate and additional measures to tackle the country’s complex prison crisis”. As of end of Oct, over 100 inmates had been killed during prison riots in 2022.
Violent crime continued to plague Guayaquil amid calls for more resources to curb insecurity. Authorities 15 Oct ended state of emergency, imposed in Aug following escalation of violence in Guayaquil, and military departed city streets. However, violence persisted unabated. Notably, authorities 15-17 Oct recorded 15 violent deaths in city; Guayaquil and Durán cities 21-23 Oct reportedly experienced their bloodiest weekend of 2022 so far, with at least 21 murders recorded. Meanwhile, Guayaquil’s police force 14 Oct incorporated 1,564 new officers into its ranks as part of plan to add 30,000 new officers to National Police across three years. At ceremony, Interior Minister Zapata called on President Lasso for more resources to combat rising insecurity.
Bomb exploded in port city of Guayaquil, killing five and prompting authorities to impose state of emergency; negotiations between govt and Indigenous organisations stalled. Improvised explosive device 14 Aug detonated in Guayaquil, country’s second largest city and major trade hub, killing five and injuring at least 17. Attack, which authorities blamed on “criminal groups”, marked dramatic escalation of violence in city that has seen rising gang-related crime in recent months as groups fight for control over drug-trafficking routes. In response to explosion, President Lasso 14 Aug declared state of emergency in Guayaquil, sixth such emergency imposed to curb violence since he took office in May 2021. Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo same day called blast “a declaration of war against the state” by criminal gangs, while city’s mayor, Cynthia Viteri, wrote open letter to Lasso saying “criminal groups have become a government within a government in Ecuador”. Situation in Guayaquil epitomizes rising violence nationwide. Authorities as of 17 Aug recorded 2,593 homicides throughout Ecuador in 2022 compared to 2,471 in whole of 2021; media outlet Expreso 15 Aug reported that, on average, one person is murdered every two hours in Ecuador. Authorities 16 Aug said govt is developing referendum text with ten questions for public deliberation, focused predominantly on ways to address country’s security issues. Meanwhile, negotiations between govt and indigenous groups following violent anti-govt protests in June stalled. Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, which spearheaded protests, 2 Aug presented proposal demanding govt set price controls on 44 essential goods, but little progress was made. Indigenous leaders 13 Aug said govt was not negotiating in good faith and lacked political will to advance negotiations.
Anti-govt protests spread across country, turning violent in some areas as demonstrators clashed with security forces. Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) 13 June called for nationwide anti-govt protests, demanding President Lasso’s administration freeze fuel prices, declare moratorium on small farmers’ bank debts, and limit oil and mining expansion. Authorities 14 June arrested CONAIE’s President Leónidas Iza; released him next day. Protests 14 June began with peaceful roadblocks; CONAIE 15 June said over 9,000 protesters had joined roadblocks in 14 of 24 provinces. Violence however subsequently escalated; notably, after protestors 14 June tried to enter one of state-owned oil Petroecuador’s stations in Sucumbíos province, clashes with security forces erupted, leaving ten soldiers wounded. Govt 17 June declared state of exception in Imbabura, Cotopaxi, and Pichincha provinces; 20 June expanded order to Chimborazo, Tungurahua and Pastaza provinces in bid to curb demonstrations. According to interior minister, violent clashes 21 June flared in Puyo city between soldiers and demonstrators reportedly armed with guns, spears and explosives, leaving one protestor dead and six police officers wounded; govt said 18 more officers were missing following attack on police station in Puyo. Lasso 22 June claimed govt was ready for dialogue; Iza said talks were conditioned on state of emergency being repealed, which govt refused. Thousands 22 June demonstrated in capital Quito. Authorities 23 June said at least five people had died since protests began, with 120 police officers injured and over 100 detained. CONAIE and other organisations 25 June met with govt officials; Lasso 26 June ended state of emergency and cut fuel price by 10 cents per gallon; CONAI 27 June said price reduction was “insufficient and without guarantee”. National Assembly 25-26 June held two sessions to debate opposition’s proposal to remove Lasso from office; in vote held 28 June, 80 lawmakers voted for measure, 12 votes shy of 92 needed to ouster Lasso who clung onto power; govt same day called off talks after military accused protestors of killing soldier. Govt 29 June reintroduced state of emergency in four provinces, citing escalating violence, and agreed to talks mediated by Catholic church; parties 30 June reached agreement to lower fuel costs among other things, ending protests.
Authorities imposed state of emergency to address drug-related violence, and series of prison riots erupted. President Lasso 29 April declared 60-day state of emergency in Guayas, Manabí and Esmeraldas provinces, involving curfews and deployment of some 9,000 security forces, to address drug-related violence. This is second time since taking office last year, Lasso is using emergency powers to curb violence, while violent deaths and crimes allegedly connected to drug trafficking continue to rise. Notably, leadership dispute among prisoners 3 April sparked riot in El Turi prison, Cuenca city (south), which reportedly left over 20 inmates killed; prison riots also erupted in subsequent days, including 5 April in Latacunga, Machala, Esmeraldas and Santo Domingo cities, and 25 April in El Inca prison in capital Quito, which left 15 inmates injured. Ecuadorian court 22 April requested former President Rafael Correa be extradited from Belgium; move follows court’s eight-year sentence on Correa for bribery in 2020, and Brussels granting political asylum 19 April to Correa, who has been living in his wife’s native Belgium since 2017.
Tensions ran high as protests erupted over soaring fuel prices. Authorities 22 Oct announced 12% increase in fuel prices, said new prices will be frozen. Move aimed at appeasing growing social tensions over fuel prices, which in last year have risen by over 40%, however failed to contain indigenous groups-led protests. Thousands 26 Oct took to streets to protest rise in prices, calling for freeze at lower rates; Defence Minister Luis Hernandez same day said dozens arrested for blocking roads and at least five security forces injured. Main indigenous group 28 Oct suspended protests after govt’s invitation to negotiate. Meanwhile, President Lasso 18 Oct declared state of emergency for 60 days to address drug trafficking violence and prison insecurity; measure implemented amid rising homicide rates and following deadliest prison riot in years, which left over 100 dead in Guyaquil town late Sept.
Deadliest prison riots in country’s history broke out between rival gang members, while post-electoral tensions emerged. Violence overnight 22-23 Feb erupted between rival gangs in Guayaquil, Cuenca and Latacunga prisons, leaving 79 inmates dead and a dozen injured; riots reportedly part of gangs’ battle for leadership within prison system since killing of most powerful gang’s leader Jorge Luis Zambrano in Dec 2020. In response, authorities 23 Feb deployed hundreds of police officers and military personnel inside prison system and in following days reportedly regained control of all three facilities. President Moreno 24 Feb said violence was “orchestrated by those who are in dispute over leadership and drug trafficking across our national territory”, acknowledged prison overcrowding and announced that govt would seek international help to combat organised crime. Meanwhile, tensions mounted following 7 Feb presidential election. Preliminary results next day showed left-wing candidate Andrés Arauz, protégé of former socialist President Rafael Correa, leading with 32.7% of vote, but conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso and environmentalist indigenous candidate Yaku Pérez neck and neck in race for second round. National Electoral Council 16 Feb said it would not conduct partial recount of votes requested 12 Feb by both candidates; 21 Feb confirmed Arauz and Lasso will contest run-off vote scheduled for 11 April. Hundreds of indigenous protesters 23 Feb converged on capital Quito in support of Pérez and to demand recount.
Following violent protests over planned fuel price hike in Oct which govt was forced to withdraw, National Assembly 17 Nov rejected President Moreno’s proposed tax and monetary reforms, aimed at reducing fiscal deficit; International Monetary Fund 27 Nov backed amended version of tax and monetary reforms.
Twelve days of mass protests sparked by President Moreno 3 Oct removing $1.3bn fuel subsidy shuttered much of country and, according to public prosecutor’s office, left some eight dead with over 1,500 injured and police arresting 1,192. Following removal of subsidy, demonstrators 3 Oct shut major roads in Quito and smaller cities, leading to some looting. Moreno 3 Oct declared state of emergency, while country’s largest indigenous movement Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) 5 Oct declared its own state of exception and announced permanent national mobilisation against govt. Govt 6 Oct temporarily moved capital to Guayaquil on coast. Moreno 7 Oct accused former President Correa and Venezuelan President Maduro of fomenting unrest with “destabilisation plan”. After another massive march in Quito on 9 Oct, organised by CONAIE and trade unions, Moreno returned to Quito and offered concrete dialogue process mediated by the UN and Catholic Church; Moreno 14 Oct repealed decree. CONAIE 23 Oct announced pause in talks, alleging govt “persecution” of its leaders. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited country 28 Oct-1 Nov to document potential rights abuses during protests, meeting with CONAIE and civil society groups.
Thousands rallied for and against President Correa mid-Sept in Quito, after a protest called by largest trade unions federation; at least 15 police wounded, several protesters arrested, of whom 53 remain detained. President Correa 23 Sept forced to reshuffle cabinet due to unexpected resignation of minister of defence.
Attorney General Galo Chiriboga 9 July highlighted ongoing security crisis in northern provinces bordering Colombia during meeting with security agencies, reported homicide rates far exceeding national average in San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas province, and Putumayo, Sucumbíos province.
President Correa 24 May announced backing constitutional amendment which would allow him and other state representatives to run for re-election indefinitely.
Security forces 3 July intercepted arms shipment in El Oro, 29 June recovered 1 surface-to-air missile in Sucumbíos; military sources said intended recipients were Colombian armed groups operating near border.
Interior Minister Serrano 3 June said global war on drugs has failed, decriminalising drug use islogical policy response to problems associated with narco-trafficking; also said Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel is only foreign trafficking group with significant operations in Ecuador.
Security forces 10 April exchanged fire with unknown illegal armed group on Colombian border, second such attack by groups in Sucumbíos province in less than a month.
President Correa 17 Feb secured re-election with 56.7% of vote; runner-up Guillermo Lasso won 23%. Correa 19 Feb said his party likely won three quarters of seats in Congress, vowed to “steamroll” through reforms to entrench his “citizen’s revolution”.
President Correa registered his candidacy for re-election Feb 2013; 8 candidates will dispute Presidency; Correa ahead by 30 points in polls.
International Press Institute 23 Oct said Ecuador’s private media outlets “being targeted” by govt. Armed forces mid-month arrested 5 suspected members of Colombian armed groups, handed over to Colombian authorities
Govt requested UK to authorise transfer of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Ecuadorean embassy in Sweden so he can respond to sex crimes allegations, in move to end diplomatic standoff with U.S..
Ecuadorian embassy in UK 16 Aug granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange triggering diplomatic stand-off with UK govt. Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (CNE) 24 Aug began manual verification of submissions for party registration for 2013 election after attorney general received thousands of complaints regarding falsification of signatures.
Amnesty International 17 July said judicial system being used by authorities to clamp down on indigenous and farmers’ leaders in attempt to prevent protests on environmental, land issues. Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists 17 July expressed concerns over further radio, TV station closures by govt.
President Correa 10 June raised possibility of ministerial boycott of private media, closed 6 radio, 2 TV stations. Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) delegates 1 June accepted Ecuador’s proposal to create new regional human rights monitoring body.
Govt deployed 10,000 soldiers across country to support police in crime-fighting, causing unease among soldiers who felt unprepared; head of Armed Forces announced plan to train 4,000 to fight crime. Authorities 7 May captured FARC leader (48th Front) Wilson Tapiero, alias “Dumar”, in Angostura province.
President Correa 23 April appointed 6 new ministers, including new Defence Minister Miguel Carvajal, 24 April said organised crime top priority following report by military that it could soon “overwhelm country”.
Late Feb army report raised alarm about increasing number of organised crime structures, rise in drug transit through country. Indigenous protesters arrived in Quito 22 March to protest against govt’s mining policy; pro-govt protesters also held demonstration in favour of proposed mining policy.
President Correa 16 Feb won defamation case against El Universo newspaper; Emilio Palacio, former El Universo editor, 8 Feb requested asylum in U.S.; Correa 27 Feb issued Presidential pardon for controversial prison sentence against Palacio and two other El Universo directors accused in case.
Final court appeal of El Universal newspaper, accused of defamation by President Correa, began 13 Jan; National Court of Justice suspended hearing 24 Jan following judge illness, said new panel of judges would be appointed. Protests against free speech restrictions continued. After Dec criticism of lack of press freedom by Inter-American Human Rights Commission Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Ecuador, Venezuela initiated proposal to weaken Rapporteur’s role; adopted in OAS session 25 Jan.
President Correa 19 Dec met Colombian President Santos in first visit by Colombian president since 2008 air strike on FARC camp in Ecuador; agreed to set up 3rd border crossing point, reinforce fight against illegal mining.
Andean Community of Nations leaders met in Bogota 8 Nov, committed to revitalize organization, following Ecuador’s Oct threat to withdraw over trade dispute with Colombia. Following complaints over alleged violations of freedom of expression, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IAHCR) 8 Nov asked attorney general’s office for information on libel case against El Universo newspaper; President Correa accused IACHR of abusing of its functions. Correa 10 Nov replaced 15 ministers in major cabinet reshuffle.
Colombian truck drivers 3 Oct began blockade of Rumichaca border crossing, claiming unfair competition due to Ecuadorian fuel subsidies, restrictions on operations in Ecuador; Ecuador threatened withdrawal from Andean Community of Nations. Guayas Provincial Court 10 Oct suspended 3 year jail sentence and $40mn penalty for libel against El Universo journalist Emilio Palacio; follows Appeals Court’s ratification of sentence in Sept.
Sucumbíos court 8 Sept issued arrest warrants for 6 Colombian military and police officials including current head of police linked to 2008 bombing of FARC camp in Ecuador, after they failed to appear for 5 Sept hearing. Appeal court 20 Sept ratified controversial 3-year jail sentence and $40mn fine imposed on El Universo newspaper executives and former columnist for libel, following suit filed by President Correa in March.
National Assembly (NA) 11 Aug elected 2 supporters of President Correa’s ruling Alianza País (AP) as VPs of NA; move means AP gains significant influence in NA.
Court 20 July fined opposition newspaper El Universo $40mn, jailed 2 directors and former opinion editor for criminal libel against President Correa; opposition, international press freedom groups criticised ruling.
Court 28 June found 6 police guilty of involvement in Sept 2010 uprising, sentences to follow. In joint mission, Ecuadorian and Colombian police 27 June arrested “Danilo”, influential FARC member, in Quito.
President Correa’s proposed constitutional reforms, including granting govt more power over judiciary and media, narrowly approved in 7 May referendum with 46% of vote; 42% voted against. UK think tank 10 May alleged Correa had received $100,000 from FARC to finance 2006 election campaign. Correa strongly denied; Attorney General 17 May announced formal investigation.
Govt 5 Apr expelled U.S. ambassador after she claimed in WikiLeaks cable that President Correa had knowingly appointed ex-police chief who was involved in corruption; U.S. 7 Apr expelled Ecuadorean ambassador, 14 Apr suspended bilateral dialogue.
Esmeralda state prosecutors 14 March issued arrest warrant for Deputy Interior Minister Gregorio Tello for corruption; Tello is third high-ranking govt official to be charged with corruption recently. National electoral council 9 March scheduled referendum on constitutional and judicial reform, backed by President Correa, for 7 May.
Constitutional Court 15 Feb approved President Correa’s proposed referendum on constitutional and judicial reform, likely to be held May; opposition and factions of Correa’s own ruling AP party say reform will unconstitutionally strengthen role of president, but opinion polls indicate popular support.
President Correa 17 Jan announced referendum on major constitutional changes, including reforming judiciary, media; opposition and members of ruling AP party criticised, said amounted to “rule by plebiscite” and will sideline Congress; vote likely in May, pending Constitutional Court approval. Govt 19 Jan issued decree placing police force under direct administrative control of interior ministry, following violent Sept police mutiny.
President Correa 15 Dec met Colombian counterpart Santos in Cali; bilateral relations formally restored 22 Dec as ambassadors reinstated. Interior and security ministers resigned 15, 16 Dec, citing lack of security and justice reform; replacements sworn in 17 Dec.
President Correa and Colombian President Santos 26 Nov announced reestablishment of diplomatic relations, broken since Colombia’s March 2008 airstrike on Ecuadorean soil; Correa said “ambassadors to be named before Christmas”. Inter-American Press Society 7 Nov criticised govt pressure on media after Sept police uprising; opposition parliamentarians 15 Nov echoed accusations. Army commander 18 Nov denounced cross-border recruitment of minors by FARC.
Relative calm re-established following bloody 30 Sept clashes between army and police forces that left at least 4 dead and nearly 300 injured over police protest against govt plans to cut bonuses. President Correa 4 Oct said will prosecute MPs allegedly linked to attempted “coup”, 9 Oct indefinitely extended state of emergency in Quito but lifted in rest of country; state of emergency ensures army control of national assembly and other key buildings in capital. Attorney general charged several hundred police connected to protest with mutiny, so far over 50 arrested.
Disaffected members of police, armed forces 30 Sept staged protest, took control of National Assembly building, airport amid growing resistance to proposed austerity measures which have caused deadlock in Congress. Protesters surrounded hospital where President Correa, attempting to negotiate, forced to seek refuge. Correa rescued by military; 2 dead, dozens injured in standoff; later said revolt amounted to coup attempt. Following 9 Sept FARC attack on Colombian police near Ecuadorian border, countries reactivated COMBIFRON border commission to improve exchange of information between security forces. Following Aug revocation of Ecuador’s arrest warrant for Colombian President Santos, Ecuadorian regional court 3 Sept charged former Colombian army Chief of Staff Montoya with murder, but desisted from demanding international arrest warrant.
In sign of rapprochement with Bogotá, President Correa attended Colombian President Santos’ 7 Aug inauguration; Santos agreed to share evidence seized during March 2008 airstrike on FARC camp inside Ecuador with Quito, key Ecuadorean condition for re-establishing diplomatic ties. Ecuador, Colombia FMs met 26 Aug, agreed to restart bilateral commissions.
Relationship with Colombia further strained after judge reopened case against Colombian army commander General Freddy Padilla over his involvement in March 2008 airstrike on FARC camp inside Ecuador. Similar arrest warrant against Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos still stands. President Correa facing mounting opposition in Congress, unable to pass key proposals; Fabricio Correa, brother of president, 15 July launched own presidential campaign, accused president of creating “Chávez-style” govt.
President Correa 12 June said foreign oil companies have until Dec to renegotiate contracts before govt seizes their assets. U.S. Sec State Clinton 8 June visited Correa in Quito, both said they expected relations to continue to improve.
President Correa 1 May said foreign oil companies would be compensated for assets govt has threatened to seize if negotiations over new contracts allowing more state control of industry fail. Indigenous protesters 6 May clashed with riot police outside parliament building in Quito as legislators debated controversial water reform bill.
President Correa 18 Apr said govt will expropriate foreign oil companies if they refuse to sign new contracts allowing more state control of oil industry. Army 19 Apr killed 2 FARC rebels in Sucumbios province close to Colombian border.
FM Patiño 18 March said normalisation of diplomatic ties with Colombia still “difficult”, cited Colombia’s refusal to share evidence seized after March 2008 airstrike on FARC camp inside Ecuador. Govt early month deployed 1,300 police to Cuenca after influential indigenous organisation Conaie threatened anti-govt “uprising”; protests eventually conducted peacefully.
President Correa and Colombia President Uribe 23 Feb held 1st official meeting since diplomatic relations broken March 2008; Correa said established road map to normalising ties. Hundreds of thousands in 11 Feb Guayaquil anti-govt protests over regional budget cuts. Appeal court 4 Feb ruled govt’s Dec 2009 temporary cancellation of pro-opposition TV station Teleamazonas illegal.
President Correa’s position increasingly weaker: influential federation of indigenous groups CONAIE 7 Jan threatened large-scale protests after govt closed indigenous radio stations; FM Falconí resigned 12 Jan after President Correa criticised his handling of “Yasuní-ITT” oil project. Army 18 Jan killed 3 FARC rebels close to Colombian border; Colombia govt said “grateful”, called on further military cooperation along border.
Govt-commissioned independent report 10 Dec claimed U.S. intelligence used to plan March 2008 Colombian airstrike on FARC camp inside Ecuador; U.S., Colombia denied. Report further accused Ecuadorean military of ignoring FARC presence inside country. Opposition accused govt of trying to curb press freedom through proposed media law.