Noboa orders 60-day state of emergency with nightly curfew following riots in several prisons

Jan 9, 2024 | 0 comments

In response to riots in at least five federal prisons on Monday, President Daniel Noboa has declared a 60-day state of emergency which includes an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The emergency also suspends rights of household privacy and freedom on assembly.

Police are conducting firearms searches in the area near Turi prison.

The declaration followed the escape of José Adolfo Macías, alias Fito, leader of the Los Choneros criminal gang, from a Guayaquil prison and the arrest of Colón Pico, head of the Los Lobos gang.

Prisoners took control of parts of the prisons in Guayaquil, Quito, Ambato, Machala and Cuenca, taking guards and administrative personnel hostage in at least three prisons.

According to police, 26 hostages are being held in the Turi prison on Cuenca’s south side. In a video message, the hostages asked Noboa to not “overreact and make hasty decisions.” They also asked him to cancel all transfers of prisoners, especially those to the high security La Roca prison in Guayaquil. In the video, the hostages are surrounded by masked prisoners brandishing knives.

According to the National Police command, the riots in Quito and Cuenca were protests of government plans to move Pico to La Roca.

In a short video posted on social media and distributed to television and radio stations, Noboa said the emergency declaration is necessary to “regain control of the country’s penitentiaries that has been lost in recent years.” Once emergency operations are completed, he said, prisoners will no longer be in charge of the prisons.

President Daniel Noboa addressed the nation Monday afternoon in a one-minute, 15-second video.

In his announcement, Noboa said: “Ecuadorians, the time is over in which those convicted of drug trafficking, contract killings and organized crime aimed at the government can dictate the rules. What is happening today and what will happen in coming days and weeks in the prisons is based on our decision to confront the criminals.”

He said the emergency decree allows the armed forces to support police in all operations to take control of the prisons. “I call on all citizens, since this struggle belongs to everyone, to support our police and military personnel. We must make dramatic changes in Ecuador. We must reestablish the rule of law so we can live in peace.”

Polce established roadblocks near the Turi prison, checking vehicles for firearms and explosives. According to a Cuenca police captain, gang members operate in the area near the prison, taking orders from incarcerated bosses. “Because of the criminal associates who are on the streets, we are concerned about the reaction to the emergency declaration,” said Gustavo Parra. “It is possible we will experience some explosions and gunfire in the coming days.”

In its emergency declaration, the government provided a long list of exemptions to the overnight curfew. It said employees working in the energy, telecommunications, natural resources, transport, media, and public utilities sectors were exempt, as well as those working at airports and on public infrastructure repair.

People with emergencies, those traveling by bus or air, or working at warehouses and stores providing “essential products”, such as food and medicine, are also exempt.

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