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Violence in Ecuador: there is no government and there is no State

At the beginning of Lenin Moreno’s government in 2017, the murder rate was 5.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. Four years later, the figure rose to 14.4. Today, with Lasso’s government, 2022 will end with a rate of 21 or 22. Ecuador would be above the average of the countries in the region, with a rate of 18, and it would become one of the most violent territories in Latin America.


Adriana Robreño


In recent times, 18 million Ecuadorians have witnessed how, day by day, the country is becoming a territory where criminality and homicides are reaching concerning levels. Murders, thefts, prison massacres, extorsion…

Insecurity is an ongoing issue in the Ecuador of President Guillermo Lasso, who, in his16 months in the post, has not found the antidote to cure the wave of violence. The information comes from Ecuador’s Police National Investigation Agency of Crimes Against Life, Violent Deaths, Disappearances, Extorsion and Kidnap (DINASED).

The solution to this problem is to build an institutional framework based on the Home Office, which coordinates the work of the National Police, the prison system and intelligence.

This is how the sociologist and expert on security matters, Fernando Carrión, understands it, who says that a national security system must be built, where the councils, education and universities are involved, so as to have a policy that can be accepted by society.

In a recent interview, President Guillermo Lasso revealed that he has a strategic security plan to stop the growing violence with support from the United States, although he declined to reveal details.

He expressed that his proposal will involve an investment of $5,000 million and clarified that Ecuador has no reason to take responsibility for the total amount of this cost, because it is an effort to combat drug trafficking and protect the children and young people of his country and the United States.

Lasso proposed that Washington will support him in the battle against insecurity with a type of Colombia Plan, without considering that the results of this strategy in a neighbouring country were not favourable.

According to Carrión, applying something similar in Ecuador would be a mistake.

Carrión recalled that, in ’98, the governments of Bill Clinton, from the US, and Andrés Pastrana, from Colombia, signed a plan which was applied during Alvaro Uribe’s presidency (2002-2010), and what happened was it displaced the areas growing and producing cocaine to the borders of Ecuador and Venezuela.

Currently, he explained, Ecuador’s problem is not having their own policy for facing up to drug trafficking as one of the causes of violence, and this has made the president seek help from abroad.

However, it should be multinational support, it cannot be only from one country, “because if not, we will end up making a policy which that nation wants for its own benefit”.

Public consultation

Another of Lasso’s hopes to deal with insecurity is focused on three of the eight questions proposed for the public consultation that he is trying to conduct in February 2023, in conjunction with the regional elections.

According to the government, it is trying to respond to the public’s concerns about the crime wave with this process.

With the first of the questions, the government is seeking a military presence in public security without needing to declare a state of exception. Specialists believe that this will not solve anything; on the contrary, it could aggravate the human rights situation. Carrión recalled that Lasso declared an emergency on average once every four months in just over a year, which shows that this is not the way forward.

In Carrión’s assessment, the question related to extraditing people who commit international criminal acts does not resolve much either. Sending a small number of delinquents to other countries will not change the correlation of forces inside the country.

The third question aims to find out if there is agreement with the formation of a type of council within the Attorney General, and this is a question that Carrión considers “interesting” because the decisions of this entity would fall to a collective and not to individuals.

Nevertheless, the president is betting a lot on the mechanism of the consultation and is trying to convey that if it is not approved, violence is going to increase, which will not necessarily happen.

Femicides, thefts and prisons in turmoil

The femicide of lawyer Maria Belén Bernal, happened in September inside the Police Training Academy in Quito. It brought to light the role of the State in acts of violence that had taken place in the school, while several uniformed officers heard the act and did nothing.

As a result of domestic violence in Ecuador, more than 200 women died this year. The most recent episodes of the prison crisis also evidenced the latent insecurity in this South American nation, as in less than two years, more than 400 people deprived of freedom were murdered in State custody.

“Ecuador is experiencing carnage: assassinations in the streets, massacres in the prisons and a femicide in the National Police itself; there is no government and, most worryingly, there is no state”, Carrion complained.

To face up to this reality, the expert proposes public actions and policies aimed at dealing with common violence, thefts, looting or murders resulting from economic problems: advancing anti-drug trafficking policy (directed at importation, exportation, consumption and money laundering), and decreasing discriminatory violence due to racism, gender or xenophobia. To achieve all this, it is essential to increase investment, “there is no better economic policy than security”, the specialist concluded. PL

(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: Photos: Pixabay

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