an attempted assault on a hospital controlled but the tension persists

Chaos has reigned in Ecuador for two weeks, following the escape of “Fito”, a powerful drug trafficking gang leader. After a hostage taking live on television on January 9, 2024, the government declared a state of emergency. But on Sunday January 21, a hospital was again stormed by 68 men.


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Police monitor arrested men who tried to take over a hospital in Guayas, Ecuador, January 21, 2024. (STRINGER / AFP)

Despite the titanic efforts made by the young president Daniel Noboa, the situation is still very far from a return to calm in Ecuador. The chaos started with the escape, Sunday January 7, of Adolfo Maciasa.k.a “Fito“, public enemy number one, leader of a gang of 8,000 men at the heart of cocaine trafficking. Mutinies ensued in prisons and on Tuesday January 9, armed men arrived on the set of a live broadcast, asking to speak to the head of state. The police then arrested the perpetrators of this attempted hostage-taking.

Since the establishment of the state of emergency, the police have managed to regain control of the prisons and the deployment of 20,000 soldiers has made it possible to tighten the cracks. The Ecuadorian and Colombian armies also seized two miniature submarines carrying more than three tons of cocaine this weekend.

But on Sunday, while an emergency meeting of all the Andean countries was setting up a mutual aid system to fight against organized crime, a hospital was stormed by 68 men, in the southwest of Ecuador. These men, who wanted to recover one of their own from the establishment, were arrested, but this incident shows the degree of instability that reigns. All the countries in the region quickly understood that they too were concerned by this crisis in Ecuador, well aware that the evil is much deeper than it seems.

A violence that infuses beyond borders

As soon as the authorities manage to timidly control the North, the gangs are unleashed in the South. In recent days, a completely anarchic situation has led Peru to also declare a state of emergency in five departments. The authorities are in fact anticipating the arrival of criminal factions from Ecuador. Several dozen groups continue to do business with mafias around the world, but locally these groups are completely autonomous.

Lucia Dammert, a senior Ecuadorian public security policy advisor, explains: “Even if it is true that the Yakuzas, the Russian mafia, the Albanian mafia, are present in Ecuador, we have local factions which act according to their rules. And today, it is very hard to anticipate their actions .” The advisor successively alerted the Chilean, Peruvian, Mexican and Argentinian presidents to the changes in South American organized crime: “The second thing is the consolidation of other illegal activities. Drugs are very important of course, but you also have migrant smuggling, illegal mining, these are very powerful markets because they infiltrate institutions. “

The prosecutor in charge of the investigation murdered

These highly mobile gangs benefit from support at all levels of Ecuadorian society. This corruption has been in the sights of President Noboa from his first day in office. It struck very hard in the heart of December with Operation “Metastases”, where 900 mobilized police officers carried out 75 searches and arrested 26 senior officials.

This earthquake is experiencing aftershocks which are proving particularly violent today. Justice, politics, prison administration, all places of power are under high tension throughout the country and no one is safe anymore. On Wednesday January 17, the main prosecutor responsible for investigating Ecuadorian organized crime and in particular investigations into the burst of armed men live on the set of an Ecuadorian public television channel on January 9, was assassinated on January 17.

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