As Ecuador law enforcement ratchets up the pressure on the international drug trade, they worry that gang members will hit back.
Following the March arrest of Washington Prado, aka, “Ecuador’s Pablo Escobar,” officials say that prosecutors and police officials in Guayaquil and Manta have received dozens of death threats.
“Now that we’re in the ‘big time’ of drug busts, we have to expect the threats,” says a Guayaquil prosecutor who asked not to be identified. “We notify the police whenever we receive a threat and several investigators that I know are under police protection. We are making major arrests and disrupting the drug routes and realize that there will be push-back, and some of it can be deadly.”
The prosecutor adds: “Once we get into the trials, judges will start receiving threats too.”
Although Prado was arrested in Colombia in a joint action by Colombian and Ecuadorian police, at least 30 of his men are in prison in Ecuador, awaiting trial. According to an official with the interior ministry, extra police are stationed near the jails and prisons, including at Cuenca’s maximum security prison in Turi, where several drug suspects are locked up.
In a meeting in late April, the interior ministry’s Bureau of Justice has agreed to provide personal protection to law enforcement agents, prosecutors, and judges who receive threats in Guayas, Santa Elena, Manabí, Esmeraldas, and Pinchincha provinces.
“We know about the threats and need to protect our people,” a ministry spokesman said. “We want to take action early to avoid what is happening in Colombia and Mexico.”