Government credits emergency declarations for reducing gang violence in three provinces
The government reports that the number of explosions and shootings declined sharply Thursday and Friday in Guayas, Esmeraldas and Santo Domingo de Los Tsáchilas Provinces. “We are gaining the upper hand in areas where violence occurred early in the week,” Interior Minister Juan Zapata said Friday. “The deployment of additional police and the armed forces, under the declarations of emergency, appears to be successful.”
President Guillermo Lasso extended the emergency declaration to Santo Domingo Province Thursday morning, following a series of explosions in the city of Santo Domingo.
Since the violence began on Monday, five police officers have been killed and another seven have been injured, all by gunshots. As of Friday afternoon, 18 explosions have been reported, most of them by small hoememade devices, according to police. Eight of the explosions occurred near police stations while the others targeted gas stations and public buildings.
Zapata defended the government’s decision to transfer gang members from the Litoral Prison in Guayaquil to a prison in Manabi Province. The transfers were blamed for igniting the attacks.
“In total, we moved 1,500 inmates from Litoral and believe this will improve the security situation within the prisons,” Zapata said. “Many of these men were gang leaders involved in criminal activities, including drug shipment activities, despite the fact they were incarcerated. By relocating and isolating these prisoners, the communication with gang members outside of the prison will end.”
He added that the transfers also relieved overcrowding at the Guayaquil prison, which he says was a factor in several riots at the facility in recent years. The inmate population at Litoral is now about 5,000, down from more than 7,000 in mid-2020.