Crime drops 24%, murders are down 18%; Noboa extends emergency; Germany pledges support in crime fight; Military puts down ‘riot’ at Feria Libre

Mar 8, 2024 | 0 comments

Ecuador’s 60-day state of emergency to combat organized crime and prison violence is showing impressive results, according to National Police Commander Cesar Zapata. “We are seeing positive results of the war against narco terrorism and expect the trend to continue beyond the emergency periods,” Zapata said Wednesday.

Zapata reported that murders have declined 18% so far in 2024 compared to 2023. “Through March 5, we recorded 773 murders this year compared to 938 in the same period last year. This is a major improvement, but we expect to see the statistic to continue to decline,” he said. “These figures include the first week of January, before the emergency was declared, which was one of the most violent weeks in our history.

Police were forced to retreat Wednesday when an angry mob of informal sidewalk vendors began throwing debris at the Feria Libre market.

He added that overall, all crime was down 24% compared to 2023, with violent crime dropping 34%.

Zapata said the majority of criminal activity remains concentrated in Guayas, Esmeraldas, Los Ríos, Manabí, and El Oro Provinces. “This is where the narco traffickers operate and this is where we are focusing our resources,” he said. “We have reassigned some military units from the sierra to the coast, since the incidence of crime remains low in sierra provinces.”

According to National Police records, the police and armed forces have carried out 154,000 law enforcement operations since January 8, making 12,112 arrests, including 280 of suspects identified as being members of 23 designated “terrorist organizations.”

Noboa extends national emergency
As expected, President Daniel Noboa extended the state of emergency Thursday night to keep the armed forces on the streets and in the prisons. Under the 30-day extension, he said the current curfews will be maintained through the weekend and be reconsidered next week.

On February 1, the Constitutional Court issued a favorable ruling on the 60-day emergency declaration that ends February 8 and approved the use of the armed forces beyond the emergency period. Noboa said Thursday, however, that the country needs “the extra protections” that the internal armed conflict declaration offers.

Germany pledges support in crime fight
The German government announced Tuesday it will provide “personnel and other resources” to Ecuador in the fight against organized crime. “We are assigning liaison officers to work with Ecuadorian police and military personnel as well as other services to combat the illegal drug trade that also affects Germany,” the German Interior Ministry said in a statement.

In a Quito press conference, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser acknowledged Germany’s role in Ecuador’s crime fight. “Germany, like other European states, is a market for illegal drugs that are shipped from Ecuadorian ports,” she said. “This is an international issue and all countries affected should provide assistance toward a solution.”

In addition to liaison officers, Faeser said Germany would provide cyber security expertise and intelligence assistance to Ecuador.

Army called in following ‘riot’ at Feria Libre market
Military personnel assisted police Thursday morning in an operation to dislodge informal vendors from sidewalks surrounding the Feria Libre market on Av. Las Americas. Police began removing merchandise and vendors on Wednesday but were forced to retreat when a crowd gathered and began throwing debris. A police captain called the incident a “riot.”

On Thursday, police and the armed forces used tear gas to disperse the crowd and to remove more merchandise from sidewalks. Several people were taken into custody during the disturbance.

Vendors who rent space inside the market complain that informal operations on surrounding sidewalks are hurting their business. Juan Ortiz, representative of the market vendors association, applauded the actions of the police and military but warned that the informal sellers would be back. “The effort must be continuous to prevent them from returning. As you saw on Wednesday, these are violent people who have no regard for the law. Many of them are drunks and thieves.”

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