In Ecuador, a 'Declaration of Open War'

Murders of 5 police officers on Tuesday attributed to criminal gangs
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2022 1:49 PM CDT
Brutal Attacks on Cops Signal 'Criminal Rule' in Ecuador
Relatives of detainees at the Litoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil, Ecuador, are pushed back by the police while they wait for news about their loved ones following a riot on Oct. 6.   (AP Photo/Cesar Munoz)

Five police officers were killed in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil on Tuesday, including two shot dead in their patrol car, in what some say is evidence of "criminal rule," per the Guardian. Officials described nine attacks in the city in apparent response to the transfer of hundreds of inmates from Guayaquil's Litoral prison, where criminal gangs are known to engage in deadly battles. Meanwhile, eight prison guards were taken hostage in Esmeraldas, where two headless bodies were found hanging from a pedestrian bridge on Monday, per AFP. "If war is what they want, war is what they'll get," an inmate said in a video that circulated on social media, showing two guards with explosives tied to their bodies, according to the outlet.

As the Guardian reports, gang violence is reaching "levels never seen before" in the country sandwiched between the world's largest cocaine-producing countries, Colombia and Peru, so that crimes like these are "becoming almost routine." The murder rate doubled to 14 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021 and stands at 18 per 100,000 between January and October. Authorities blame rival drug gangs with links to Mexican cartels. Calling Tuesday's violence "a declaration of open war," President Guillermo Lasso announced a new state of emergency and a 9pm curfew in the provinces of Guayas and Esmeraldas. But it's a "really lukewarm" response, a Guayaquil resident tells the Guardian. "Trying to impose a curfew, [the criminals] will just laugh in your face."

He, like others, fears the police have been infiltrated. In parts of Guayaquil and the country's Pacific coast, which serves as a smuggling route, "the state has been displaced," says Col. Mario Pazmino, the ex-director of Ecuador's military intelligence. "We are talking about criminal rule with this new escalation in the level of violence." Lasso said the violence "clearly shows the limits [that] the trans-national organized crime is willing to surpass," per Reuters. "We are taking actions [that] worry them, hence the violent reaction." The emergency measures, including restrictions on movement and assembly, mimic measures put in place in April and in 2021. They will remain in place for 45 days, per the BBC. (More Ecuador stories.)

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