The problem of insecurity in Ecuador has gone from being a matter to be solved in the medium term to an emergency. The death of an 11-year-old boy in an ice cream parlor, shot four times in the crossfire between a policeman and a thief, has exhausted the margin of maneuver that the Government of Guillermo Lasso had.
The president had been more focused on weathering the storm of the Pandora Papers and on the political pulse that he maintains with the Assembly in the face of the blocking of its main economic reforms. But he reappeared this Monday night with the announcement that he will take the military out to the streets to accompany the police in the fight against common crime. “We must end the violence that took the life of Sebastián Javier and before other Ecuadorians,” justified the head of state.
Lasso has decreed a state of exception throughout the territory, which converges with the state of emergency established for the prison system three weeks ago after the most violent prison riot in the country. “We were all moved by the painful departure of a child, a son, to whose parents and relatives we express our condolences,” said the president in a video broadcast through social networks.
“Nothing will be able to repair this terrible loss, but we must all gather strength,” said Lasso, who offered legal defense to the police and military who face problems with the law for carrying out their work in the fight against criminals. “Act with the courage that characterizes you because this Government will pardon all those who have been unjustly condemned for having done their job,” he promised. And he attacked the judges who should “guarantee peace and order; not impunity and crime ”.
Half an hour after his message, the Ombudsman’s Office issued a statement in which he exhorted the commanders and police officers to “always bear in mind the duty to respect the rights to life, security and the integrity of the population. “So that their actions” being professional, careful and responsible, prevent the fight against crime from becoming a risk situation for citizens. ” The Ombudsman’s Office also rejected proposals such as those of the mayor of Guayaquil, the city with the highest level of conflict, who sent a bill to the Presidency to allow citizens to carry weapons to defend themselves.
A storm of adversity has dispelled in less than a month the sense of optimism and tranquility that the new Government reaped thanks to the vaccination against the covid to nine million people in its first 100 days of administration. The conservative politician had promised to do so in the campaign and achieved approval ratings of more than 70% until the end of September, when violence broke out in a Guayaquil jail. The riot, which left 118 dead and took almost 10 days to control, made visible from one moment to the next the concern of citizens about the trickle of murders by way of hitmen and the reports of robberies and armed robberies in full light of the day.
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On the same day that the inmates of the Litoral Penitentiary got up, the National Assembly rejected its law Creating Opportunities, which contained a tax reform to satisfy the International Monetary Fund and a labor reform to make employment conditions more flexible, and unleashed a crisis of governance that Lasso has described as a conspiracy of his opponents against democracy.
While the president tried to distort the bad image left by the revelation of the Pandora Papers, the violence raged on Guayaquil and its municipalities of influence. In 10 months there are twice as many violent deaths as last year and that sector is the scene of a third of all murders in the country, which have skyrocketed. In 2018, homicides did not reach 1,000 a year across the country and the figure has risen this year to 1,884 in ten months, with several episodes of hitmen in broad daylight and in residential areas.
Three assaults with a pistol at the doors of two banks during school hours expanded the discourse of fear last week in a population that is increasingly afraid of going out on the street due to the risk of being robbed while waiting at a traffic light to enter steal from your home while you go shopping or have the vehicle parked at the door of the house looted.
Along with the violence, the amount of drugs seized in the country has grown. The 82.2 tons of narcotics seized in 2019 now reaches 116.6 so far this year. The Ecuadorian president has related, precisely, to drug trafficking the peak of violence that plagues the entire territory but, above all, the big cities. “Ecuador has gone from being a drug transit country to one that also consumes drugs,” Lasso said. “When drug trafficking grows, hit men and homicides also increase, robberies of homes, vehicles, goods and people,” said the president without giving specific figures. In addition to the state of exception, the leader of the Andean country asked the other political forces to put aside differences to fight with the “only enemy”: drugs.
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