Gangs, armed groups, and drug cartels are running rampant in Ecuador. The specter of terror looms over the country’s roads, leaving even the armed forces in fear.
Live Broadcast Shock:
During a live broadcast, Kemily Gamarra and Diego Gailardo witnessed armed gunmen invade a nearby television news station, kidnapping anchors and the driver. The shocking events unfolded simultaneously on messaging apps and social media in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest and potentially most dangerous city. In a sudden turn of events, residents, including Diego and Kemily, started seeking safe shelter for themselves and their loved ones.
Desperate Escape Attempt:
Diego and Kemily, with their 10-year-old son in a separate part of the city for school, urgently decided to secure refuge. Kemily swiftly grabbed her car keys to evacuate, but Diego halted her, saying, “If anything happens to you, our children won’t know how to cope. They need you. Stay here. I’m going.” Tearfully, Kemily recounts her emotions as Diego left, expressing her powerlessness.
Ecuador declared a state of emergency as notorious gang boss Josè Adolfo Macias, known as “Fito,” escaped prison, prompting swift government action. President Daniel Noboa, who assumed office just two months earlier, ordered the military to neutralize over 20 groups he deemed “ineffective” terrorists, intensifying the internal armed conflict.
Ecuador’s War Against Gangs:
The conflict escalated on January 9th when the president’s announcement agitated criminal groups in the capital. Following terrorist attacks in Guayaquil, President Noboa deemed Ecuador in an “internal armed struggle” and ordered military interventions against more than 20 groups, considering them terrorist organizations.
Challenges and Security Measures:
The attempt to neutralize active criminal groups within Ecuador’s borders complicates matters as experts warn of deep connections between Ecuadorian terrorist groups and major criminal networks, including Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa Cartel. Military and police forces, commanded by Gen. Jaime Vela Arauz, pledge not to “retreat or negotiate” with armed groups, emphasizing the nation’s future is at stake.
Curfew and Street Surveillance:
A nationwide curfew was imposed, and during daylight, military and police personnel patrolled Guayaquil’s streets, setting up checkpoints. Drivers faced rigorous inspections, including phone checks and searches for weapons. Even public transportation faced scrutiny, with soldiers questioning passengers for any information useful to law enforcement.
Ecuador’s Ongoing War Against Gangs:
As Ecuador grapples with continuous violence, citizens live in fear. Despite the scorching heat, people cautiously wear ski masks before taking photographs, revealing the extent of terror. With an economy reliant on cocaine production and smuggling, Ecuador becomes a battleground for authorities trying to maintain control against powerful criminal networks.
Government Actions Amidst Crisis
Ecuador’s President reports that over 3,000 people have been detained since January 9, with fewer than 200 arrested on charges of “terrorism.” The conflict persists, and President Noboa estimates at least 30,000 individuals in the country are affiliated with armed groups. Despite the government’s robust stance, senior military officials express concern about the long-term sustainability of the fight, citing inadequate information, ammunition, and military gear. Some police and military personnel fear retaliation, impacting their safety and that of their families.
Foreign Assistance Appeal
Facing uncertainty, individuals involved in policing and military operations request foreign aid. President Noboa urges assistance from the United States and Europe, emphasizing the need for weapons, equipment, and intelligence. He declares the issue as international, extending beyond Ecuador’s borders.
President Noboa, in collaboration with regional leaders, highlights that active cartels in Ecuador receive financial support from foreign drug markets. Acknowledging the need for a comprehensive global approach, he appeals for assistance from America and Europe.