Quito, Ecuador – Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso on Monday declared a state of emergency in the country grappling with an upsurge in drug-related violence, and ordered the mobilization of police and military in the streets .
“From now on, our armed forces and police will make themselves felt with force in the streets as we declare a state of emergency throughout the national territory,” the president said in a speech broadcast by the state channel EcuadorTV.
“In the streets of Ecuador, there is only one enemy: drug trafficking,” said the right-wing leader, adding that “in recent years Ecuador has grown from a country of drug trafficking to a country that also consumes drugs ”.
The announcement came on the eve of an official visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Ecuador and Colombia to support and expand ties with Latin American democracies.
Blinken will meet with Lasso on security, defense and trade cooperation.
Violence has increased dramatically in Ecuador in recent months. Between January and October of this year, the country recorded nearly 1,900 homicides, up from around 1,400 in 2020, according to the government.
The state of emergency imposed for 60 days allows the government to mobilize 3,600 soldiers and police to patrol 65 prisons across the country. Lasso said police would also patrol the streets.
Earlier Monday, Lasso appointed a new defense minister as the country recovers from a massive prison crisis.
The president appointed retired General Luis Hernandez to the post, citing “inadequate public security” in the South American nation.
Hernandez will replace Fernando Donoso. The government has not given a reason for the reshuffle.
But it comes as the country’s prison system grapples with a wave of bloody riots.
So far in 2021, 238 prisoners have died in the riots.
“Ecuador is going through a period of insecurity, an insecurity which has its origin in several factors, including drug trafficking,” said the president, adding that the Andean nation needs “stronger, more solid” armed forces.
Two weeks ago, jailed members of criminal groups linked to cartels in Mexico and Colombia fought with guns for control of a penitentiary in the southwestern city of Guayaquil. The fighting left 119 people dead in one of the worst prison massacres in Latin American history.
Lasso pointed out that more than 70 percent of violent deaths that occur in the coastal province of Guayas, whose capital is Guayaquil, are somehow linked to drug trafficking.
“When drug trafficking increases, the number of contract killers and homicides also increases,” in addition to other crimes such as theft, the president said.
State of emergency declared in Ecuador as drug-related violence increases
SourceState of emergency declared in Ecuador as drug-related violence increases