President Daniel Noboa of Ecuador has issued orders to “neutralise” criminal gangs following a surge of violence that reached a climax with an attack on a television studio.
Masked gunmen stormed the live studio of the public television channel TC during a broadcast, compelling staff to the ground. In response to the attack, police apprehended 13 individuals, and two employees were injured.
Since the declaration of a 60-day state of emergency on Monday, at least 10 people have lost their lives in Ecuador. The emergency was prompted by the mysterious disappearance of a notorious gangster, Adolfo Macías Villamar, also known as Fito, from his prison cell. It remains unclear if the TV studio incident in Guayaquil is connected to Fito’s disappearance.
President Noboa characterised the situation as an internal armed conflict and announced the mobilisation of the armed forces to conduct military operations to neutralise transnational organised crime, terrorist organisations, and belligerent non-state actors.
Concerns about potential spillover effects prompted Peru to swiftly deploy a police force to the border. Ecuador, a major exporter of bananas, oil, coffee, cocoa, shrimps, and fish products, has experienced a surge in violence linked to conflicts between drug cartels vying for control of cocaine routes to the US and Europe.
President Noboa’s state of emergency follows recent prison riots, escapes, and other violent incidents attributed to criminal gangs. The emergency decree includes the Choneros gang, named after the town of Chone in Manabi Province, along with 21 other identified gangs. The declaration builds upon Monday’s state of emergency, which imposed a nightly curfew to curb violence in response to Fito’s escape. Security forces are working to restore order in several jails where riots erupted on Monday.