How Corruption and Gang Warfare Transformed Ecuador

By Tara John

"There is clearly the incentive for gangs to be infiltrating the judicial system or the security forces," said AS/COA's Eric Farnsworth to CNN.

Ecuadorians have found themselves in the middle of a bloody turf war as rival criminal organizations mete out brutal and often public shows of violence, battling to control drug trafficking routes that cross the Andean nation. 

Reports of dismemberments, prison riots, bombings and the killing of journalists, judges and mayors have dominated the headlines, and many Ecuadorians are opting to leave the country – the country’s civil registry even extended its hours this year as it reported rising demand for passports and identity cards. 

In December 2022, US Customs and Border Patrol encountered more than 16,000 Ecuadorians at the US southern border – 24 times the number than the same month a year before. 

But the high-profile assassination on Wednesday of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio could be a turning point for the country that has so far struggled to control the bloodshed. […]

Corruption allegations have also swirled around Ecuador’s justice and security system. Last year, the US withdrew visas from high-ranking officers of Ecuadorian state security forces, alleged to be linked to drug trafficking, as well as several judges and lawyers. 

Lizarazo said graft has penetrated the police, military, the judiciary and even the executive, meaning the next administration has deep rooted challenges to address once in power. 

Many are forced to make a choice between a bribe or a bullet, Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Washington office of the Council of the Americas and the Americas Society, told CNN. “There is clearly the incentive for gangs to be infiltrating the judicial system or the security forces—at least some folks are tempted by the [saying] “you can have silver, or you can have lead.”…

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