Monday, June 5

Blinken visits Ecuador in a state of exception

Correspondent in Quito



With a state of emergency in force as a backdrop, the Secretary of State for the USA, Antony Blink, made his first visit to Ecuador, and learned, first-hand, the serious security problems that plague the South American country due to the violence derived from drug trafficking.

Blinken spoke to the president, Guillermo Lasso, and senior national officials, with whom he reviewed the cooperation agreements to combat drug trafficking, knowing that his country is the largest destination for drugs. The state of the talks to reach a commercial agreement that has been negotiated for a long time.

The presence of the Secretary of State is also seen as an endorsement of the Government of Guillermo Lasso, which today has several opposition fronts, to the point of having denounced the existence of a ‘triumvirate of conspiracy’, which includes the former president Rafael Correa, to the former mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot (his campaign ally), and the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), Leonidas Iza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – Reuters

In fact, Iza believes that the state of exception decreed on Monday, although it is due to the growing violence, also has other purposes beyond security. “It is configured to combat the mobilizations, including the one that Conaie is preparing for October 26,” he says. Other social sectors also believe they see a strategy of the Executive to send projects with the character of emerging to the Legislature that, otherwise, could not do so, because it does not have a majority.

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Definitive data

What no one doubts, because it is a source of great concern in the country, is the violence in the streets, especially in some provinces of the country, where heinous crimes are committed on a daily basis. The death of an eleven-year-old boy in an ice cream parlor that was robbed on Sunday afternoon in Guayaquil caused a commotion. The minor was shot four times by the crossfire between the police and the criminals. People were outraged; justice was claimed on social media.

The Minister of Government, Alexandra Vela, said that 84 percent of the acts of violence are concentrated in eight territories, and mentioned Guayaquil, El Oro, Los Ríos, Manabí, Esmeraldas, all of the Ecuadorian coast, as well as Quito, among the most conflictive. Crimes have increased exponentially so far this year. While between January and August 2020 there were 12,475 robberies; in the same period, in 2021 there were 16,017; an increase of 28.4%. Thefts to homes have grown 16% and the theft of vehicles, 58%, according to official data.

More than 70% of violent deaths in the Guayaquil region are related to drug trafficking

President Lasso himself said, on Monday night, that when drug trafficking grows, gangs, murders, theft from homes and vehicles also increase. “More than 70% of violent deaths in Guayas (its capital is Guayaquil) are related to drug trafficking.”

The decree says that the Armed Forces and the National Police will carry out weapons controls, inspections and patrols 24 hours a day; as well as drug requisition. But the 51,000 police officers in the country are not enough. Experts say that at least 5,000 more would be needed, because the standard indicated by the United Nations speaks of 1.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.

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With a state of exception in force, people wonder how far Lasso will go in the fight against organized crime when the reality of poverty in the country is enormous and the increase in drug use is on the rise.

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