Ecuador in crisis: what you need to know | ET REALITY


Violence erupted across Ecuador this week after a known gang leader disappeared from prison. Explosions, looting, shootings and burning of vehicles were reported, and there were uprisings in several prisons. In the largest city, Guayaquil, gunmen stormed a television studio during a live broadcast on Tuesday.

President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency for 60 days, imposed a nationwide curfew and authorized the military to patrol the streets and take control of prisons. Noboa also deployed thousands of police and military personnel to search for the gang’s leader, Adolfo Macías.

Here’s what we know so far:

As of Tuesday, violence in Guayaquil had left at least eight people dead, Mayor Aquiles Álvarez said at a news conference. Shops, schools and government offices were closed and the streets of Guayaquil and the capital, Quito, were clogged with traffic as workers tried to return home.

Authorities said a second top gang leader had escaped from an Ecuadorian prison, along with other inmates. in a presidential decreeNoboa declared that an internal armed conflict was underway and ordered the military to “neutralize” two dozen gangs, which he called terrorist organizations.

During a news broadcast broadcast live by TC Television in Guayaquil, several hooded armed men burst onto the set. They forced staff members to the ground, kicking and punching them. Presenters and other staff members were forced to appear on video asking the president not to intervene.

One of the attackers could be heard saying that he wanted to send a message about the consequences of “messing with the mafias.” But the police intervened before they could attach a microphone to him.

Police later said they had arrested 13 people, confiscated weapons and explosives, and that all the people who had been taken hostage were safe.

Macías, better known as “Fito,” is one of the most notorious bosses in the country. He is the boss of Los Choneros, which is believed to have been one of the first Ecuadorian gangs to forge links with Mexican drug cartels.

On Sunday, during a smuggling raid, he was discovered missing from his cell in an overcrowded prison in Guayaquil, where he was serving a 34-year sentence for drug trafficking and other crimes. He had already escaped from prison once before, in 2013.

Like other gang leaders in Ecuador, Macías had been running his criminal enterprise from behind bars. Some security experts believe that up to a quarter of the country’s prisons are controlled by gangs.

The government had recently ordered that Macías and other high-profile convicts be moved to a maximum security facility. Experts said that could have led to his escape and sparked the prison uprisings.

The gang war only began to affect Ecuador, a country of 18 million people, in recent years. Over the past five years, foreign drug traffickers have joined forces with gangs like Los Choneros to build a powerful drug trafficking industry across the country, infiltrating the government, extorting companies, and killing Ecuadorians who try to stand up to them.

Fernando Villavicencio, a presidential candidate murdered in August, said days before his death that he had received multiple threats from members of Los Choneros. He had spoken openly of links between organized crime and government officials.

Macías was transferred to a maximum security wing after the murder, but his lawyers managed to get him returned to the cell from which he had been running Los Choneros. Macías celebrated by releasing a music video.

Noboa, who won the election and took office in November, has promised to crack down on gangs and restore security in Ecuador. “The time for drug prisoners, hitmen and organized crime to dictate to the government what to do is over,” he said in a video statement Tuesday.

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