Police investigate deaths of two men hung from Duran bridge, say they are the result of drug bust
Ecuador’s National Police on Monday said it is investigating the deaths of two people whose bodies were hung from a foot bridge Duran, a crime officers believe could be linked to a recent drugs seizure. The hangings are reminiscent of those in Mexico, where they an advertisement for cartel authority.
Violence and crime, including within the country’s prison system, have exploded in Ecuador’s coastal region in 2021, with the government blaming drug-trafficking gangs which use the country a way station to export narcotics to the United States and Europe.
Duran, in Guayas province, is considered one of the country’s most violent cities, second only to Guayaquil, which accounted for more than a third of country’s murders over the past year.
“For us it is extremely worrying that these increasingly aggressive criminal incidents continue to take place,” Marcelo Cortez, deputy police commander of the Guayaquil area, told reporters.
Families of the victims — who local media reported were found with their hands and feet tied, with their heads wrapped in adhesive tape — reported them missing on Friday, Cortez said.
One working police theory is that the deaths could be linked to an operation which took place on Sunday in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, during which seven tons of drugs destined for Belgium were seized. Police say the victims found hanging from the bridge appear to have had connections to drug gangs.
Security expert and former police captain José Hidalgo said the government must act decisively to reduce drug violence. “The situation is not yet out of control yet but it could be soon if this sort of crime continues,” he said.
“This weekend’s display of bodies hanging on a bridge is the first time it has happened in Ecuador, Hidalgo says. “It is a crime used by Mexican cartels to send the message ‘I rule here,’ and it must be crushed quickly by authority. The act is usually carried as part of the apprenticeship of new gang members to demonstrate their toughness and loyalty.”
According to Hidalgo, the good news for Ecuador is that the country is not a drug producing country. “It is simply a transport point for Peru and Colombia cartels in their shipments of drugs to the U.S. and Europe. It is also only evident in the coastal region of the country. Now is the time, however, for authorities to expunge it with overwhelming force.”
President Guillermo Lasso is fighting the crime wave with legal reforms and increased presence of police and soldiers on the streets of coastal communities, but so far the measures have shown little results.