QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — President Guillermo Lasso decreed a state of emergency Monday to confront drug trafficking and other crimes in Ecuador, saying the military and police will take to the streets to provide security.
In a national broadcast, the president said that “there is only one enemy: drug trafficking.”
He pointed out that Ecuador has gone from being a trafficking zone to one that also consumes drugs.
“This is not only reflected in the amount of drugs consumed in our country, but in the number of crimes that today have a direct or indirect relationship with the sale of narcotics,” he said.
Lasso said drug trafficking has brought an increase in homicides, burglaries of homes, thefts of vehicles and goods, and robberies of people.
The state of emergency gives authorities the power to restrict the freedom of movement, assembly and association, among the most important limitations.
This year there have been violent revolts in the country’s prisons due to drug violence, especially in Guayaquil, which have ended in bloody massacres by inmates of rival mafia gangs linked to Mexican drug cartels. About 230 people have been killed in those compounds.
A 13-year-old boy having ice cream with his family in Guayaquil was killed over the weekend when caught in crossfire between gunmen and a police officer. In the province of Guayas, there has been a 70% increase in homicides, with 641 so far this year.
The president also announced the creation of a legal defense unit to defend uniformed officers who he said have been sued for fulfilling their duty. Lasso said judges should “guarantee peace and order, not impunity and crime.”
“The national government will deploy all law enforcement to carry out a single mission: to restore security to citizens. We will take the battle to the underworld wherever it hides,” he said.