Wednesday, June 29

Ecuador declares a state of exception to deal with violence linked to drug trafficking

The Government of Ecuador, overwhelmed by citizen insecurity, declared a state of exception throughout the national territory and shielded the public force (police and military) from taking action against crime.

The Ecuadorian president, Guillermo Lasso, declared on Monday a state of exception for sixty days in the face of what he considered “serious internal commotion” due to the “increase in criminal activity”, especially in provinces where statistics warn of an upturn in crime.

In provinces such as El Oro, Guayas, Santa Elena, Manabí, Los Ríos, Esmeraldas, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Pichincha and Sucumbíos (on the border with Colombia), the mobilization of the military was ordered to complement the police actions.

In those towns, the action of the forces of order will be felt “strongly in the streets,” said Lasso, who detailed actions such as arms controls, drug trafficking, inspections, and constant patrols by out-of-order agents.

The president, who complemented his executive decision with a message to the nation, announced the creation of a unit for the legal protection of the public force, in charge of defending policemen or soldiers who may be sued in the framework of security actions.

The exceptional measure “has the purpose of controlling the circumstances that have been generated, reestablishing peaceful coexistence and public order,” the executive decree states.

The government order came amid a wave of crimes, echoed by the media, which daily report on violent crimes, especially in the coastal city of Guayaquil and other neighboring areas.

The military, according to the decree, “at all times will act in coordination with the Police”, in charge of citizen security, under the principles of “exceptionality, necessity, proportionality and humanity”, and with adherence to the rules of “progressive use of the force”.

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“In the streets of Ecuador there is only one enemy, drug trafficking,” which is the engine of other criminal activities, Lasso said in his message to the nation delivered in parallel to the executive decree.

The president recalled that Ecuador has been classified as a transit country for drug trafficking, but pointed out that this activity has also generated an increase in the domestic consumption of narcotic substances.

This increase in consumption is also associated with a large number of crimes that are reported daily, added the president, giving as an example that only in the province of Guayas, whose capital is Guayaquil, more than 70 percent of violent crimes are related to drug dealing.

For this reason, the national security plan that the Government has designed has included a state of exception for sixty days, but also includes measures to protect members of the public force.

“We will create the Legal Defense Unit of the public force, an entity that will dedicate itself exclusively to the protection of all those members of the Police or the Armed Forces who are sued for fulfilling their duty,” he explained.

According to Lasso, “the law should intimidate the criminal, not the police,” and for this reason his government will pardon all those agents who have been “unjustly convicted” for this type of action.

Consequently, the government will send a new bill to the National Assembly (Parliament) to support law enforcement officials, the president added.

The regime wants to unite all the forces of order with a single mission, “to restore security to the citizens” and to take “the battle to the underworld wherever it is hidden.”

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After insisting that the lack of opportunities in the country has pushed young people to use drugs, he said that an inter-institutional committee of all the ministries of the social front and the human rights secretariat will be formed to prevent, stop addiction and reinsert to consumers in society.

“We want a safe Ecuador to live in peace,” since “without security there is no development” and to achieve that goal requires a coordinated work of the entire society to “defeat the common enemy,” Lasso stressed.

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