AMERICA/ECUADOR - “The majority of perpetrators are young people who are sent to the front to be killed”

Thursday, 25 January 2024 bishops   local churches   criminality  

Quito (Agenzia Fides) - "The majority of the perpetrators are teenagers, young people without life experience and training, like a piece of meat to be slaughtered, sent to the front to be killed," said Antonio Crameri, bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Esmeraldas, in the North West of Ecuador, who highlights the drama of the young people recruited by criminal gangs who are destabilizing the country, to the point that President Daniel Noboa was forced to declare a state of emergency to address what he defined as an "internal armed conflict" (see Fides 9 and 10 January, 2024).
In the interview to Missio Switzerland, an organ of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Switzerland, Monsignor Crameri (who was born in Locarno and has been in Ecuador since 2002) states that "we are at war, a civil war" in Esmeraldas, recalling that seven drug lords have been killed in the province since December. A violence that in turn provokes counter-violence from rival mafia clans: burning gas stations, bomb attacks on police headquarters, burning vehicles, looting, arbitrary destruction and repeated shootings. Many people are fleeing due to the escalating violence and personal threats. They have to leave everything behind if they want to save their lives. “Not a week goes by without receiving a phone call from a threatened family asking me to take them to a safe place,” said Bishop Crameri. The Church is trying to be particularly close to the people in this difficult situation, including in the province of Esmeraldas, where concrete help is being offered. With the “Hospital de Campaña”, which thanks to medical, psychological and spiritual assistance offers the victims of violent conflicts an alternative and support that they cannot obtain from the State. However, the center relies on financial help and donations from abroad. For this reason, Monsignor Crameri launches an appeal: "please, support us and pray for us". Meanwhile, Ecuador's Constitutional Court has ruled that President Noboa will be able to implement two military agreements with the United States that were signed by former President Guillermo Lasso before his resignation. These are the agreement "relating to operations against illicit transnational maritime activities", and the agreement on the "Statute of Forces". These agreements grant US troops on Ecuadorian territory a number of benefits such as tax exemption, amnesty, free use of air and land space, free use of Ecuadorian radio spectrum and the carrying of weapons. A possible US military intervention in Ecuador in the form of sending weapons, equipment, advisors and military trainers is therefore foreseeable. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 25/1/2024)