With its lengthy coastline and proximity to coca-producing areas, Ecuador is the latest Latin American country to become a hub of drug trafficking plagued by rising violent crime. Murder rates have climbed over the last half-decade, and the country has recorded more homicides in 2022 than in any previous year. Successive presidents have tried to curb the trend, some with aggressive policing and others with a mix of security and socio-economic reform policies aimed at dimming the allure of illicit livelihoods. Through advocacy and periodic reporting, Crisis Group works to promote the latter approach to crime prevention, which has a better record of reducing violence throughout the region.
Ecuador’s proximity to major cocaine producers, dollarised economy and corruptible state institutions, as well as COVID-19’s devastating impact, have turned the country into Latin America’s latest hotbed of drug trafficking and other violent crime.
President Lasso dissolved congress to avoid impeachment and will rule by decree until August elections; violent crime continued.
Lasso dismissed legislature and called snap elections. With impeachment vote impending in Congress over corruption allegations, President Lasso 17 May invoked constitution’s “mutual death” clause, dissolving Congress and calling snap elections; Lasso will now rule by decree until poll takes place in Aug; unclear whether he will run for re-election. Amid concern president’s unprecedented use of “mutual death” clause could spark unrest, soldiers 17 May surrounded National Assembly, with head of Armed Forces’ Joint Command warning security forces would “act firmly” if violence broke out. Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, which spearheaded 2019 and 2022 “national strikes”, 17 May condemned Lasso’s move as “a dictatorship scenario” but refrained from calling protests.
Several mass shootings left 13 dead amid rising drug-related violence. Unknown gunmen 14 May killed seven in Quevedo city, Los Rios, one of Ecuador’s most violent provinces; in Montañita tourist town along Pacific coast, gunmen 20 May killed six. Meanwhile, officials 8 May reported that Junior Roldán, a leader of criminal gang Los Choneros, one of Ecuador’s largest, was killed in neighbouring Colombia; Roldán’s demise represents significant loss for gang.
Ecuador has been Latin America’s most unstable democracy for a decade. Starting with the ousting of President Abdalá Bucaram by Congress and street protests in 1997, weak, temporary governments have been the rule.
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