President Noboa declares a state of emergency after a prominent gangster disappears from a prison.
At least four Ecuadorian police officers have been kidnapped and explosions set off in several cities, police said, a day after President Daniel Novoa declared a state of emergency.
Novoa, a former lawmaker and son of one of the country’s richest men, took office in November on a promise to revive the struggling economy and stem a wave of violence on the streets and in prisons that has been growing for years. did.
Novoa on Monday declared a 60-day state of emergency – a measure used by his predecessor with little success – allowing military patrols, including in prisons, and establishing a nationwide curfew.
This measure was taken after Adolfo Macias, the leader of the criminal organization Los Choneros, disappeared from the prison where he was serving a 34-year sentence, and riots broke out at six other prisons, including hostages taken by prison guards. This was done in response to.
Police and prosecutors have provided little information about Macias’ disappearance.
Police announced on social media on Tuesday that three police officers on night duty were taken from a police station in the southern city of Machala, and a fourth missing officer was taken by the three in Quito.
“Our specialized team is working with the goal of locating our colleague and bringing the perpetrators to justice,” police said. “These acts will not continue to go unpunished.”
A chilling video circulating on social media showed the crisis the president is currently facing. It depicts three kidnapped police officers sitting on the ground, held at gunpoint, and one of them forced to read a statement to the president.
“You have declared war. There will be war,” said the officer. “You have declared a state of emergency. We declare the police, civilians and soldiers to be the spoils of war.”
“Anyone found on the streets after 11pm will be executed,” the statement read out by horrified police officers.
Novoa has said he will not negotiate with “terrorists,” and the government blames recent prison violence on the president’s plan to build new maximum-security prisons and transfer incarcerated gang leaders. He blames it on the plan.
Prison authorities have not provided any information about the guards being held hostage.
Ecuador has seen an explosion of violence in recent years as rival gangs with ties to Mexican and Colombian cartels vie for power.
The kidnapping of the police officer followed an explosion in Esmeraldas, a coastal town in a gang-controlled area.
Police said an explosive device was thrown near a police station and two vehicles were set ablaze in another area, but no one was killed.
In Quito, a car was reportedly blown up and a device detonated near a pedestrian bridge. No one was injured in the explosion, but authorities in the capital called for increased security amid an “unprecedented” crisis.
Drug violence takes a toll. More than 7,800 murders and 220 tonnes of drugs were seized in the country of 18 million people last year, a new record for the country.
Since February 2021, more than 460 people have been killed in clashes between prisoners.