In The Spectator, Juan P. Villasmil details the turmoil in Ecuador and the country’s prospects for a civil war between its government and powerful narco-gangs. Villasmil writes:
Ecuador’s most-wanted prisoner escaped from a maximum-security detention center in the port city of Guayaquil Sunday. Chaos has reigned in the South American country since then, with President Daniel Noboa — who was inaugurated less than fifty days ago — declaring a nationwide state of emergency for sixty days on Monday.
The prisoner, José Adolfo “Fito” Macías Villamar, is the leader of Los Choneros, one of Ecuador’s fiercest gangs. The group, with its humble beginnings acting as the military wing of Colombian narcos in the 1990s, has evolved into an expansive and internally divided prison gang.
Three years ago, in a coordinated attack in three detention centers that led to the largest prison riot in the country’s history, inmates pertaining to one of Los Choneros’ derivative gangs went after the main organization, leaving seventy-five dead. Incidents like this one, plus no scarcity in kidnappings and shootings, aided in the rise of the businessman-turned-president, who like El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele is not only young but also a fan of building mega-jails. In fact, a few days before Fito escaped, Noboa announced his plan to construct such facilities.
Now the Ecuadorian president faces his first major security test. Some are already calling the conflict a civil war. Wikipedia even had a “2024 Ecuadorian Civil War” page that was edited on Tuesday’s afternoon to say “2024 conflict in Ecuador.” Is it a war, though, or did Wikipedia prove high-school teachers right? It depends on who you ask. The scale of the conflict, not the nature of it, seems to be the only component lacking to confidently label the situation a war. According to Noboa, for some of the nation’s top gang leaders, the answer is more straightforward: this is war.
On his X account Tuesday, Noboa listed twenty-two groups, including Los Choneros, that the country’s armed forces has been tasked to neutralize. On the same day, gang members made their way into TC Televisión, as they unsuccessfully attempted to take journalists hostage in reaction to Noboa’s state of emergency declaration.
| URGENTE: Delincuentes irrumpieron en TC Televisión y secuestran a todos en vivo y directo en Guayaquil, Ecuador. pic.twitter.com/ob1yleusOc
— Alerta Mundial (@AlertaMundoNews) January 9, 2024
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