Violence in Ecuador | Dozens arrested after attempted assault on hospital

(Quito) Dozens of people were arrested Sunday in Ecuador during an attempted assault on a hospital, a new episode of violence in this country shaken by the war with gangs, the day when the Andean countries, gathered at a summit in neighboring Peru, have defined a mutual aid system to fight against organized crime.

Ecuadorian police announced the arrest of 68 suspected members of a criminal organization who wanted to take over a hospital where one of their own was. “We neutralized suspected terrorists, who were trying to take control of the facilities of a hospital in Yaguachi”, in the province of Guayas (southwest), she indicated on X.

According to this source, the group wanted to “protect an injured member of their organization” who had been admitted to this hospital earlier in the morning.

Firearms and drugs were also seized. A clandestine “re-education center”, where suspected members of the organization “were hiding”, was also searched, police said.

Authorities recently closed several such centers, essentially clandestine hospitals run by gangs that authorities say lack the medical equipment needed to treat patients.

On Sunday, around 10 tons of drugs were also seized near the town of Vinces, in the western province of Los Rios, the army said on X.

The same day, an emergency meeting devoted to Ecuador, undermined like never before by violence linked to drug trafficking, was held in Lima, capital of Peru, bringing together the member countries of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN).

At the end of this summit, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador announced the creation of the first “Andean security network” against organized crime, according to an official statement.

This network will guarantee “a 24/7 service to provide and receive information, and/or request information from other countries […] on the activity of criminal groups which have, or may carry out, transnational operations,” indicated the CAN Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defense.

“We have made history, we have written a new chapter of the CAN,” rejoiced Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld.

“Fear paralyzes countries,” she stressed. “We have seen that fear has paralyzed Ecuador, paralyzed investments, increased unemployment and migration.”

“Inner War”

The proliferation and expansion of gangs engaged in drug trafficking and racketeering in Ecuador has put border areas on alert.

Peru and Colombia have strengthened their border controls, fearing the entry of criminals fleeing intensifying repression in Ecuador.

Considered a relatively safe country, Ecuador has been sinking into violence for five years, against a backdrop of economic slowdown and impoverishment following the COVID-19 pandemic: the homicide rate has increased from 6 to 46 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2023.

Located between Colombia and Peru, the largest producers of cocaine in the world, Ecuador has for years remained sheltered from the violence linked to drug trafficking.

But from a simple transit country, it has become an operations and logistics center for shipping cocaine to Europe. And around twenty gangs literally rule the law, particularly from prisons.

A step in the terror was reached on January 9 with the live assault on public television TC by heavily armed men who briefly took journalists and employees of the channel hostage before the police managed to free them, arresting 13 attackers.

Eight days later, the anti-mafia prosecutor Cesar Suarez responsible for investigating this spectacular attack was assassinated, shot dead in broad daylight in the center of Guayaquil (southwest).

President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency and declared the country “in internal war” against gangs described as “terrorists”, deploying more than 20,000 soldiers on the ground.

source site-59