As expected, Noboa’s referendum focuses on security and judicial reform but there is one big surprise

Jan 4, 2024 | 0 comments

President Daniel Noboa’s 11 referendum questions, made public Wednesday, follow through on campaign promises to strengthen the role of law enforcement in fighting organized crime and to keep convicted criminals in prison.

In a major surprise, President Daniel Noboa is asking voters to consider the reintroduction of casino gambling to generate jobs and tax revenue.

If approved by voters, the questions will allow the armed forces to back up police without emergency declarations, prevent the prosecution of police while performing their duties, allow the extradition and deportation of criminals, strengthen border security, and reduce the options prisoners have for early prison release.

In a recorded video message and a press statement, Noboa said the questions were aimed primarily at “confronting and dismantling drug gangs and cartels and all organized criminal activity in Ecuador.” He said the soaring murder and violent crime rates in coastal communities are the result of organized crime “imported” from outside the country.

The questions were delivered Tuesday to the Constitutional Court which has 20 days to conduct a review. Once the questions are approved, with revisions if necessary, they will be presented to voters within 60 days.

There was one major surprise in the questions submitted to the court. Question 11 asks voters to legalize the operation of casinos and gaming halls. Except for the national lottery, gambling was banned in Ecuador in a referendum vote 16 years ago. Noboa argues that reestablishing the industry would provide as many 250,000 jobs and produce “hundreds of millions of dollars” in tax revenue for the government.

These are the referendum questions the government submitted to the Constitutional Court for review.

  1. Do you agree that the Armed Forces should initiate actions to prevent and eradicate the activity of transnational criminal organizations operating inside and outside the national territory, as set out in the Annex to Question 1?
  2. Do you agree that the Armed Forces should carry out permanent control of weapons, ammunition, explosives and accessories on the roads leading to prisons and other social rehabilitation centers?
  3. Do you agree that members of the Armed Forces, the National Police, and the Prison Security and Surveillance Corps should not be deprived of their liberty, or ordered to be placed under house arrest, for the duration of the investigation or criminal proceedings for acts carried out with the use of force, amending the Comprehensive Organic Penal Code in accordance with the Annex to question 3?
  4. Do you agree with increasing the penalties for the crimes of: (i) terrorism and its financing, (ii) illicit production and trafficking of controlled substances, (iii) organized crime, (iv) murder, (v) contract killings, (vi) trafficking in persons, (vii) kidnapping for ransom, (viii) arms trafficking, (ix) money laundering and (x) illegal activity of mineral resources, amending the Organic Comprehensive Penal Code in accordance with the Annex to Question 4?
  5. Do you agree that persons deprived of their liberty should serve their entire sentence within the social rehabilitation center for the offences detailed in the Annex to question 5, amending the Comprehensive Organic Penal Code as set out in the aforementioned Annex?
  6. Do you agree that the offence of possession or carrying of weapons, ammunition or other equipment for the exclusive use of the Armed Forces or the National Police, without affecting firearms permitted for civilian use, should be criminalized by amending the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code in accordance with the Annex to question 6?
  7. Do you agree that weapons, their components, explosives, ammunition or accessories that were instruments or material objects of a crime, may be intended for the immediate use of the National Police or the Armed Forces, by amending the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code in accordance with the Annex to question 7?
  8. Do you agree that the servants of the Judicial Branch should be evaluated, including an audit of their asset declarations, in accordance with the Annex to question 8?
  9. Do you agree that the State should proceed to be the owner of assets of illicit or unjustified origin, simplifying the procedure of the Organic Law on Asset Forfeiture, as set out in the Annex to question 9?
  10. Do you agree that the procedures for the deportation and expulsion of foreigners should be reformed, in order to control migration and strengthen state security, as set out in the Annex to Question 10?
  11. Do you agree that casinos, gaming halls, bookmakers or gambling businesses should be allowed to operate, under the conditions detailed in the Annex to question 11?

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