- BBC News World
The president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, declared a state of exception throughout the national territory for 60 days to combat drug-related violence.
In a speech broadcast Monday night on state television, Lasso said the police and military will work together and that his presence would be felt “strongly” in the streets.
The president considered that there is a “serious internal commotion” in the country due to the “increase in criminal activity”, especially in provinces such as Guayas, where statistics warn of a rebound in crime.
“In the streets of Ecuador there is only one enemy: drug trafficking“, declared in his message to the nation, pronounced in parallel to the executive decree.
The exceptional measure “is aimed at controlling the circumstances that have been generated, reestablishing peaceful coexistence and public order,” states the decree, signed on the night of October 18.
The measures are taken 18 days after the worst prison massacre in the country, in which gangs linked to drug trafficking clashed and left 119 dead.
Parallel to this, a controversy is taking place in the country over the expansion of the extractive border in the Ecuadorian Amazon and voices have emerged that question whether the new security measures are also related in part to these protests,
Precisely this Monday, October 18, several indigenous organizations rejected two decrees signed by the Lasso government and presented the first of “a series of lawsuits” before the Constitutional Court.
The indigenous leaders arrived in Quito and assured that their action aims to “derail” the government’s plans to expand oil and mining extractions in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Executive Decree 95 seeks double oil production with up to one million barrels a day, while Executive Decree 151 seeks to “relax environmental controls to accelerate the entry of foreign mining companies into the Amazon,” indicate indigenous groups.
What measures are going to be implemented against drug trafficking?
As for the new measures against drug trafficking, the president said he 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.”
Among the actions he intends to implement, Lasso cited arms controls, drug trafficking controls, drug requisition, inspections and patrolheh 24 hours a day.
According to the executive decree, the military “will act at all times in coordination with the police“, under the principles of” exceptionality, necessity, proportionality and humanity “, and with adherence to the rules of” progressive use of force “.
He also announced the creation of a unit for the legal protection of the public force. This body will defend the police or military who may be sued for implementing security actions.
“We will create the Unitedd Legal Defense of the public force, an entity that will be dedicated exclusively to the protection of all those members of the Police or the Armed Forces who are sued for fulfilling their duty, “said Lasso.
“Lthe law must intimidate the offender, but no al policeman”, declared the president. Therefore, his government indultará to all those agents who have been “unjustly convicted” for doing their job.
In addition, he will send a new bill to the National Assembly to support law enforcement officials.
The military will be deployed in nine provinces: El Oro, Guayas, Santa Elena, Manabí, Los Ríos, Esmeraldas, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Pichincha and Sucumbíos (bordering Colombia).
Likewise, Lasso said he will create a Comitted Iinterinstitutional between all the ministries of the Social Front and the Secretariat for Human Rights, which “will produce concrete actions to prevent, stop addiction (to drugs) and reintegrate consumers into society.”
Wave of violence
The declaration of the state of emergency comes as Ecuador experiences a sharp increase in homicide cases and situations of violence.
During the last few years, the historical homicide rate in the country has increased. In 2016 it was 5.8%, while in October of this year it amounted to 10,6%, according to the local newspaper El Telégrafo.
There was 1,885 criminal events so far this year, 1,112 of which were classified as criminal violence.
Between January and August of this year, 1,427 murders were registered in the country, 55 more than in all of 2020, according to the Interior Ministry.
The situation is of particular concern to the coastal city of Guayaquil, where almost three weeks ago at least 119 inmates died in a prison riot attributed to rival factions linked to Mexican drug trafficking organizations.
It was the worst prison massacrea in the history of the Latin American country.
Lasso said that Ecuador has been classified as a transit country for drug trafficking, which in turn has generated an increase in the consumption of narcotic substances in the country.
According to the president, only in the province of Guayas (whose capital is Guayaquil) over 70% of violent crimes are related to drug trafficking.
“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,” said Lasso.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.