Security will be increased at referendum election voting stations but campaigners could be at risk

Apr 1, 2024 | 0 comments

With more than 13 million Ecuadorians headed to the polls in less than three weeks, the National Electoral Council (CNE) is considering a range of security measures due to the threat of violence. On Sunday, April 21, voters will determine the fate of 11 questions proposed by President Daniel Noboa.

Due to the elevated threat of violence, there will be more security at polling stations for the April 21 referendum election.

“Because of security concerns, the circumstances of this election are different from what we have faced in the past,” says Diana Atamaint, president of the CNE. “We are talking to the police and military command about how to protect the voting stations as well as those who are campaigning for and against the referendum questions. We are developing a risk profile for various locations that will determine the security measures.”

The CNE has already announced a prohibition against backpacks and other large bags and parcels in the voting stations. “This will apply nationwide, but we are looking at other requirements based on threats in particular locations.”

According to Army Colonel Mario Pazmiño, security in voting stations on the coast, particularly in Guayas, Manabi and Ros Rios Provinces, will be different than in the sierra. “The threat is much greater is cities such as Guayaquil and Manta than in Cuenca and Riobamba and this will determine how voting stations are protected,” he says. “In the sierra, we may need only one or two police officers at each location while we could need three or four — or more — on the coast.”

Pazmiño also worries about the campaigns promoting a “yes” and “no” vote on referendum questions. “Especially, I worry for the supporters of the referendum since some questions regard strengthening law enforcement against the drug gangs,” says. “Because of this, the gangs could target supporters of the referendum.”

Pazmiño recommends that all campaigners consider security risks in the areas where they campaign. “The circumstances will be very different in Manta than in Loja, so the environment of each location must be evaluated.”

Ten organizations have been authorized for the referendum campaign, which begins April 8, including political parties, labor unions and social organizations.

Javier Orti, national president of the Avanza party, which supports all referendum questions, says it will not send campaigners into “high danger” zones. “We are very aware of the risks in some areas and understand that the bad guys oppose the referendum,” he says.

Although Orti says Avanza will have “boots on the ground” in communities in the sierra, it will rely on billboards and radio and television ads and interviews in most coastal areas.

The Ecuadorian Socialist Party, on the other hand, plans to send representatives throughout the country and is not overly concerned about violence. “It is a fact that our risk is less than for “yes” campaigners but both sides face risks under current circumstances,” says party spokesman Carlos Durán. “On the other hand, we believe there are some violent people who support the questions. Everyone has to be careful.”

The CNE said it hopes to complete its security evaluation by April 16.


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