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

Constitutional Court again overturned President Noboa’s state of exception amid ongoing criminal violence; efforts to tackle corruption continued. 

Judiciary overturned state of exception as violence persisted in coastal provinces. Constitutional Court 13 June declared state of exception decreed by President Noboa in late May unconstitutional, second time judiciary has overturned his decree. So-called Security Block, made up of military and police, 15 June criticised decision, arguing states of exception have yielded positive results. Meanwhile, insecurity persisted in strategic drug trafficking enclaves along Pacific Coast. Notably, unknown assailants 2 June killed alternate Congressman Cristhian Nieto and his wife in Manta city (Manabí Province); Noboa 3 June ordered stepped-up security presence in city to contain rising violence. U.S. Treasury Department 6 June announced sanctions against “Los Lobos” gang and its leader alias “Pipo”, saying group had “emerged as Ecuador’s largest drug trafficking organisation” and is responsible for worsening violence.

Efforts to tackle corruption continued. As part of “Metastasis” and “Purge” investigations into high-level corruption across Ecuador, Judicial Council 14 June dismissed seven judges from Guayas Province, prosecutor and secretary for alleged involvement in organised crime. Police 29 June arrested over a dozen individuals, including judges, attorneys and govt officials, in connection with Plaga Case, another high-level probe into ties between organised crime, govt and judiciary. 

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In The News

18 січ 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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