Government says it has made no agreements with criminal gangs despite social media claims

Jul 28, 2023 | 0 comments

President Guillermo Lasso and the Ministry of Defense have labelled as false claims by two criminal gangs that a ‘truce’ agreement has been reached with the government to reduce violence.

The government denies there are any agreements between criminal gangs following last weekend’s violence.

In a video posted Wednesday night, the Los Choneros gang said that Ecuador’s National Police and military have agreed to a “truce” following the assassination of Manta Mayor Agustín Intriago and a weekend riot at a Guayaquil prison. “We have made an agreement similar to those in Colombia and Mexico that will bring down the level of violence in Manta, Guayaquil and other ports,” a masked gang spokesman said in the video. “We all agree that this arrangement is best for all parties, especially the people of Ecuador.”

According to Lasso, there is no agreement and there have been no discussions with criminal gangs. “We will not make agreements with criminals regarding law enforcement matters. We have not talked to them about this in the past and we will not talk to them about it in the future,” he said. “There will never be impunity for drug traffickers and murderers.”

The Defense Ministry issued a similar statement, saying it has not held discussions with Los Lobos gang leaders, who also claimed an agreement had been reached.

A sub-commander of the Guayaquil National Police command said Thursday that Ecuador will never cede territory to drug gangs. “This is not Colombia, and we are increasing, not reducing, our efforts to find and arrest those involved in violent trafficking activity,” said Carlos Morales. “I understand there are agreements with gangs in Colombia and other countries to allow the cartels to operate without interference but that is not the case here.”

Morales’ comments referred to news reports last week that the police and military in Colombia have made unofficial agreements with drug cartels. According to the crime research service InSight Crime, about 15% of Colombian territory is controlled by gangs under such agreements.

InSight says that more than 50% of Nariño Department, bordering Ecuador’s Esmeraldas Province, is controlled by drug gangs under an agreement with the Colombian government. “Criminal gangs control the travel corridors between Nariño and northern Ecuador. It is a superhighway for drug trafficking,” InSight claims.

“These authority sharing arrangements between governments and cartels are never publicly acknowledged and, in fact are officially denied, but they have existed for years in Mexico and Colombia,” InSight says. “They are arrangements of convenience, and the government maintains its own official functions, with public employees, but allows the gangs to operate relatively freely as long as violence is controlled.”

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