AMERICA/ECUADOR - “Ecuador shows that illegal trade has a strong destabilizing force”

Thursday, 11 January 2024 criminality  

Quito (Agenzia Fides) - "We are in a state of war and must not surrender to terrorist groups", said the President of Ecuador Daniel Noboa speaking yesterday, January 10, to the nation, traumatized by the violence unleashed by criminal gangs (see Fides, 10/1/2024). "We are fighting not only for national peace, but also against terrorist groups, which now number more than 20,000 members," Noboa added in his video message released immediately after Parliament unanimously approved Executive Decree 111, which recognizes the existence of an internal armed conflict in the country and provides for the intervention of the armed forces to neutralize 22 terrorist groups.
The case of Ecuador exemplifies the destabilizing power of criminal groups, especially in countries with a weak social and economic structure. "The events in Ecuador show that illegal trafficking, especially in the context of organized crime, has a strong destabilizing and hybrid force," said Alessandro Politi, director of the NATO Defense College Foundation, to Fides. "Ecuador, which a year ago wanted to publish a national strategy against organized crime, has still not published it. Now, after the disappearance of an organized crime boss (José Adolfo Macías Salazar, alias "Fito", see Fides, 9/1/2024, editor's note), before his transfer to a maximum security prison, President Noboa chose the path of militarization," Politi continued (on the cocaine trade in the port of Guayaquil see Fides, 6/9/2023).
According to the director of the NATO Defense College Foundation, it is necessary to take into account developments in other countries in a similar situation, and in particular in Mexico, in order to understand how the situation in Ecuador could develop. "Ecuador certainly has the opportunity to learn a lot from the eighteen long years of Mexico's drug war. First, that without a credible fight against corruption, more and more powerful weapons can find their way into crime and even special forces can be bought by malicious actors. Secondly, that the economic and social reconstruction of the areas affected by the mafia is crucial to gradually end the conflict," concluded Politi. A worrying sign of how criminal gangs are trying to sway public opinion to their side is the "apology" delivered in a video released by a criminal gang. The video shows two dozen men in white T-shirts and jeans gathered around one of their comrades who, without showing his face, reads a statement that says: "We salute the entire country and apologize for the unrest, especially among you poor people, who are most affected." Meanwhile, Colombia is also stepping up its border surveillance with Ecuador with the deployment of army special forces after Peru imposed a 60-day state of emergency along their shared border. The Ecuadorian president called for the repatriation of prisoners of Colombian, Venezuelan and Peruvian origin, who "make up 90 percent of foreign inmates in the country's prisons, so we will reduce overcrowding and government spending." Brazil and Argentina, meanwhile, offered to send their security forces to support the Ecuadorian army. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 11/1/2024)