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Ecuador triggers state of emergency after leader of country's main criminal gang escapes

Screenshot of a video of the President of Ecuador via Agence France-Presse “I have just signed the decree on the state of emergency so that the armed forces have all the political and legal support in their actions,” said Daniel Noboa in a video broadcast by the presidency.

Paola Lopez – Agence France-Presse in Quito

7:40 p.m.

  • Americas

President Daniel Noboa on Monday declared a state of emergency for all of Ecuador, including in the prison system, following the escape of Adolfo Macias, alias “Fito”, the head of the most large criminal gang, and prison uprisings.

“I have just signed the decree on the state of emergency so that the armed forces have all the political and legal support in their actions,” Mr. Noboa said in a video released by the presidency .

The army is thus authorized to operate for 60 days to maintain order in the streets and prisons of the country where a curfew has been declared between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.< /p>

Security forces “are hard at work to find this extremely dangerous individual” who allegedly fled on Sunday “a few hours” before a control operation carried out in the prison of Guayaquil (south), declared the government communications secretary Roberto Izurieta, referring to “infiltrations”.

The prosecution announced Monday on the social network organized crime, drug trafficking and murder.

On Sunday, the police chief admitted to the press that he was “not found in the place where he should have been”, a high security cell in the port city penitentiary. The prosecution then opened an investigation into the “alleged escape” of Fito, 44, leader of the “Choneros”, a gang of around 8,000 men according to experts, which had become the main player in the flourishing drug trade in Ecuador.< /p>

“Fito” had already escaped in 2013, with other prisoners, from a high-security prison and was recaptured after three months.

Roberto Izurieta lamented that “the level of infiltration” of criminal groups within the state “is very high” and called Ecuador's prison system a “failure.”

“The search for  [“Fito”  continues […] He will be found, he must be found,” he said, calling him “a criminal with extremely dangerous characteristics, whose activities present characteristics of terrorism.”

“We will not negotiate with terrorists and we will not stop until we bring peace to all Ecuadorians,” Mr. Noboa insisted.

Sequestered guards

Police and soldiers entered heavily armed several prisons in the country, particularly those where guards were kidnapped.

Images posted on social media, which could not be verified, showed guards being held at knifepoint by hooded men, pleading with the government to “act with caution” and “don't send troops into prisons.”

Videos released by the armed forces later showed detainees lying in prison courtyards with their hands on their heads. The prison administration (SNAI) indicated that no one was injured following these “incidents”.

“We have taken measures that will allow us to regain control” of the prisons, underlined President Noboa.

The name “Fito” has made headlines in recent months following the assassination in early August of one of the main candidates for the presidential election. The victim, a former journalist and parliamentarian, had reported death threats from the leader of the Choneros shortly before his execution.

Sporting a large beard, “Fito”, known to be very charismatic, studied law in prison until obtaining his lawyer's degree. A song in his glory by a Mexican group, with video clip and images filmed in his cell, was recently broadcast on social networks.

A country that has become a logistics center for shipping cocaine to the United States and Europe, Ecuador is ravaged by the violence of gangs and drug traffickers. Homicides increased nearly 800% between 2018 and 2023, from 6 to 46 per 100,000 residents.

Prisons are the scene of recurring massacres between rival gangs. Since February 2021, there have been at least a dozen massacres that left more than 460 detainees dead. The authorities have so far proven incapable of firmly regaining control.

Mr. Noboa was elected in the fall of 2023 on the promise of curbing insecurity in the country and regaining control of prisons.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116