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

Violence continued at high levels despite state of emergency, with unknown gunmen shooting Ecuador’s youngest mayor; efforts to tackle corruption continued.

President renewed state of emergency amid precarious security situation. President Noboa 7 March extended nationwide state of emergency, in place since Jan, for additional 30 days to address criminal violence; renewal is second and last time such extension is permitted. Violence continued at high levels, however. Notably, unknown gunmen 24 March shot dead country’s youngest mayor, Brigitte García, in San Vicente town (Manabí province) alongside her communications director, Jairo Loor; death marked latest in string of attacks on political figures in Ecuador. Riot in military-controlled prison in Guayaquil city, reportedly sparked by “internal revolt” against alleged mistreatment of inmates, 27 March left at least three prisoners dead. Gunmen 30 March shot dead nine people and injured ten others in Guayaquil. Kidnappings and extortions increased fivefold between 1 Jan and 8 March compared to same period last year. Meanwhile, authorities prepared for 21 April referendum that, among other things, will propose measures to tighten security and reform constitution.

Police arrested twelve as part of Attorney General’s corruption probe. Office of Attorney General Diana Salazar 4 March announced arrest of twelve people, including judges and politicians, as part of so-called “Purge” investigation into officials suspected of ties to criminal groups; operation spawns from Salazar’s wider “Metastasis” investigation into high-level corruption across Ecuador. President of Guayas’ Court of Justice Hugo González 8 March resigned after Attorney General’s office announced he was implicated in “Purge”; Hugo González denies wrongdoing. 

Continue reading

In The News

18 Jan 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

Latest Updates

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.