News Update


Ecuador politician assassination: Terror reigns among prison gangs

Five years ago, the words Fernando Villavicencio spoke into a microphone at a campaign event, just seconds before he was killed in a shower of gunfire, could have been disregarded as a rhetorical flourish.

But they were all too accurate on Wednesday. Villavicencio, a contender in the upcoming presidential election, was shot as he exited a gathering in Quito.

His murder was not a unique instance.

A mayor shot while reviewing public works, victims hung from bridges, gang leaders releasing videos in which they threaten to kill politicians unless they do their bidding – a seemingly never-ending litany of violence has dominated the news in this once-safe country.

In 2018, the murder rate was 5.8 per 100,000 people. A Gallup study found that the majority of its residents felt safe traveling alone at night.

By 2022, Ecuador’s homicide rate had more than doubled, and Ecuadoreans’ impression of safety, as well as their trust in police to keep them safe, had plunged.

It’s safe to suppose that if a poll were taken right now, the percentage of people who feel safe would be considerably lower.

How did Ecuador, which was once regarded as a safe haven for tourists and locals alike, devolve into a country where democratically elected politicians are assassinated?

Gangs – and geography – are the answer.

Ecuador is situated between Colombia and Peru, the world’s two largest cocaine producers.

According to the United Nations Global Report on Cocaine 2023, cocaine output just reached a new level.

Colombia and Peru, where coca leaf – the raw material used to create cocaine – is farmed, are at the heart of this global criminal commerce.

And, as manufacturing rises, so do drug seizures by authorities around the world.


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