Government offers details of its anti-crime Fénix Plan; Focus will be on four coastal provinces

Dec 28, 2023 | 0 comments

Following criticism that the new government’s plan to combat crime is short on details, Interior Minister Mónica Palencia is “filling in the blanks” in a series of interviews. “I agree we need to provide more information but we have been in office for only a month and needed time to evaluate the situation before making major moves,” she said.

Interior Minister Mónica Palencia

Palencia says the Fénix Plan announced two weeks ago by President Daniel Noboa will aim most crime-fighting resources on Guayas, Manabí, Esmeraldas, El Oro and Los Ríos Provinces. “These are the areas, where the vast majority of crime, especially violent crime, is occurring in the country. These are the provinces where the criminal gangs and cartels have established a presence, and we need to attack them where they are concentrated,” she said.

In an interview with Teleamazonas, Palencia said Fénix will focus on 18 “hot zones” within the five provinces. This will include increasing intelligence capabilities and using the Armed Forces to control the importation of firearms, she said. “We will add additional police but understand that new personnel alone are not the solution. They will need accurate information and sufficient firepower to confront the criminals.”

Fénix also involves an expanded role of military forces. “For now, they will support law enforcement with duties assigned in the constitution, but voters will have the opportunity to assign them new duties in the consultation we will present in March or April,” Palencia said. “The president made it clear we do not want soldiers sitting in their barracks when we have a crisis in our streets. Their role will be expanded to confront criminal activity, particularly in the drug trade, and support police.”

According to Palencia, the Fénix Plan will also draw on resources, both equipment and advice, from the U.S., Europe and Israel. “Our drug trafficking problem is not one of our own making and it makes sense for the countries that import illegal drugs from Ecuadorian ports help control the trade.”

Palencia said it is important that Ecuadorians understand the violence in the coastal provinces has not spread to the rest of the country. “The headlines suggest that the entire country is full of murderers and criminals when, in fact, most of Ecuador is peaceful,” she says. “There are many communities that have not witnessed a murder in years and where criminal activity has shown little increase over the years. There are larger cities in the mountains, such as Loja, Riobamba and Cuenca, where the rate of violent crime is actually declining.”

She added that crime has even declined in some coastal areas that have seen soaring murder rates. “The number of murders in Durán and Machala, two areas where criminal gangs are established, has declined by 40% to 60% in recent months. Some of the law enforcement efforts already in place are having an impact.”

Palencia had no new information about the two high security prisons Noboa promised to build within 200 days. She also did not say if those facilities would be prison ships, as Noboa had earlier suggested. “We are in the planning stage with these and in consultation with experts from other countries, including El Salvador and the U.S.,” she said. “We want to gather the best advice available to create the most secure prisons in the shortest amount of time possible. We will provide details as the plans develop.”

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