U.S. delegation arrives to assist in gang fight; Arrests mount as violent crime drops; 68 arrested in hospital invasion; Fito’s wife deported from Argentina

Jan 22, 2024 | 0 comments

A U.S. government delegation arrived early Monday in Quito to meet with President Daniel Noboa, the National Police and military command, and others, to provide assistance in Ecuador’s fight against drug gangs. The delegation is headed by former U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, who currently serves as U.S. Presidential Advisor for the Americas.

The group also includes U.S. Army General Laura Richardson and Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Christopher Landberg.

Police arrested 68 following an armed invasion of a hospital near Guayaquil on Saturday.

“The intention of the mission is to listen to and consider options to accelerate bilateral security cooperation and analyze collaborative approaches to confront the threats posed by transnational criminal organizations,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.

The statement said the delegation will hold meetings with Ecuadorian law enforcement and government officials concentrated on the police and military response to organized crime, cybersecurity and intelligence gathering processes, port security, and human rights.

Gang arrests mount as violent crime drops
The presidential press office announced Saturday that 2,578 people have been arrested since the beginning of the joint police and armed forces mission against criminal organizations. Of the arrests, 158 have been “positively identified” as members of 22 gangs labeled as “terrorist” groups by President Daniel Noboa.

The police-military raids are being conducted under Noboa’s 60-day emergency declaration of an “internal armed conflict.”

The press office statement reported that violent crime has dropped by more than 50% since the beginning of operations. “Criminal acts, including murders, have been reduced by 50% to 75% in five provinces that have experienced the most violence,” the statement said. “Prior to the declaration and operation, there were 25 murders a day in Guayas, Manabi, Los Rios, El Oro and Esmeraldas provinces. Since January 9, there have been an average of seven murders a day.”

During the joint operation raids, 940 firearms, 1,139 knives, 31,200 rounds of ammunition and 4,763 explosives have been seized, according to the statement.

68 arrested in Guayas hospital invasion
Sixty-five men and three women were arrested Saturday in what police say was an attempt to take over a hospital in Yaguachi, north of Guayaquil. Police say the attempt occurred following the admittance of a gunshot victim at José Cevallos Ruiz Hospital.

Although the victim, identified as a gang member, died shortly after entering the hospital, 24 armed men associated with another gang, entered the facility shortly after in an attempt to locate the victim.

Police arrived within minutes and arrested the intruders, according to zonal Police Chief Julio Camacho. Officers then raided a nearby rehabilitation clinic that police claim was actually an illegal brothel that served as a gang headquarters and made more arrests.

Camacho said the motive of the attack is under investigation but believes the gunmen intended to “finish off” the gunshot victim.

Tattoos are targeted
National Police and military personnel are focusing attention on the tattoos of criminal suspects, according to a spokesman for the joint police and military raids being conducted under Ecuador’s state of emergency.

The spokesman said that tattoos indicate the affiliation of suspects with criminal gangs, including the 22 gangs designated by the government as “terrorist organizations.”

“When suspects are apprehended, we ask them to remove their clothing to reveal all tattoos,” the spokesman said, adding that those taken into custody are separated according to possible gang affiliation.

Gang leader Fito’s wife deported from Argentina
The wife and family of Los Choneros gang leader José Adolfo Macías, alias Fito, have been deported from Argentina to Ecuador. Police in Cordoba, Argentina said Inda Mariela Peña and two of her children were living in a house they had recently purchased in an exclusive subdivision of Córdoba.

Macías, who was serving a 34-year prison sentence, escaped from the Guayaquil penitentiary on January 7 or 8, according to prison officials.

Argentina Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich said her government had recently investigated the family after learning of Macías’s criminal history in Ecuador. “We believe the house was purchased with the plan that Macías would join the family in Córdoba following his escape. The house was purchased in September with a large amount of cash.”

Peña, her children and two family friends, arrived in Guayaquil aboard an Argentinian military aircraft on Friday. Peña was interviewed by police and then released.

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