How Ecuador Went From Sleepy Refuge to a State of Emergency

By Whitney Eulich

"I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like this since the bad old days of Pablo Escobar," said AS/COA's Brian Winter to The Christian Science Monitor.

In the span of a few short days this month, prison riots and gang violence in Ecuador led to President Daniel Noboa declaring a state of emergency – and an “internal armed conflict” against organized criminals. He labeled 22 gangs “terrorist” organizations for the military to “neutralize.” 

Ecuador has long been viewed as a regional bastion of safety and stability, but over the past six years homicide rates have climbed at alarming rates, leading to this week’s brazen violence. President Noboa declared a state of emergency on Jan. 8 – mobilizing the military in places like prisons and implementing a nationwide curfew that’s set to last last two months. 

The move followed the prison break of a notorious criminal leader, Adolfo Macías, known as “Fito.” Further unrest unfurled as the week went on, with organized criminal groups targeting universities, a television station (with an armed confrontation broadcast on live TV), prisons, and the police. 

Cartels may control parts of Mexico and some Brazilian cities, says Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly. “But this kind of assault by gangs that are so strong that they may pose a threat to the general rule of law and ability of a central government to project power? … I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like this since the bad old days of Pablo Escobar” in Colombia, he says...

Read the full article.