Ecuador’s President Declares “Internal Armed Conflict”

January 10, 2024

The present and the future of our homeland is at stake and no act of terror will make us give in.

Commander of Ecuador’s Armed Forces Jaime Vela Erazo as the South American country faces increasing gang violence following the apparent escape of high-profile gang leaders from prison. As of Tuesday, at least ten people had been killed due to the violence emerging “as drug gangs fight each other and the government for control of ports and smuggling routes” (The Associated Press).

What To Know: Ecuador lies in Western South America, and has an estimated population of more than 17 million people; bordering the Pacific Ocean, it’s located between the world’s largest producers of cocaine – Colombia and Peru. While Ecuador has faced instability for years, an increase in violence began on Monday following the disappearance of a high-profile gang leader from prison (a second gang leader disappeared from a prison on Tuesday).

Following the firstapparent escape, a nationwide state of emergency was declared and members of the armed forces and police officers were deployed to find the gang leader. This led to uprisings in Ecuador’s prisons – of which one-fourth are thought to be under gang control. “The violence soon spilled over into civilian life,” The New York Times reports, including an “unprecedented assault” on a TV station on Tuesday, “hours after a series of other attacks and police officer abductions” (The AP). Following Tuesday’s TV station attack, Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa – who’s held the office since November promising to tackle crime – declared an “internal armed conflict,” directing the military to “neutralize” several drug-trafficking gangs now designated as terrorist groups by the government.

Why It Matters: Political analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations Will Freemen explained, “This is a turning point. … Depending on how the government responds, it will set the precedent for these kinds of incidents to continue, or it will use this as a catalyst and make some very necessary structural reforms so that the state can start to win its war against crime.”

On Wednesday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said via X (formerly known as Twitter), “We strongly condemn the recent criminal attacks by armed groups in Ecuador against private, public, & government institutions. We are committed to supporting Ecuadorians’ security & prosperity & bolstering cooperation w/partners to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Read More: Ecuador’s escalating gang violence is broadcast live to the nation as masked gunmen storm TV studio (The Associated Press)

‘The World I Knew Before Is Gone’: Ecuador Reels After Days of Unrest (The New York Times)

Helpful Backgrounder: What’s behind the chaos in Ecuador? (CNN)

by Leah Grainery, based in Texas