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Ecuador in Turmoil: Once Peaceful Nation Now Gripped by Drug Gang Violence

Ecuador, a country once known for its peace and stability, has descended into chaos due to a surge in violence perpetrated by drug cartels. This violence has shattered the nation’s reputation and left its citizens living in fear.

The crisis began with the escape of a notorious gang leader, Adolfo Macias, also known as Fito, from a prison in Guayaquil. This sparked a wave of violence, prompting President Daniel Noboa to declare a state of emergency and launch an aggressive crackdown on criminal gangs.

The centerpiece of this crackdown has been the deployment of the military onto the streets and into prisons. However, these efforts have proven largely ineffective. Gang violence continues to spiral out of control, with the homicide rate soaring from 6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018 to a staggering 46 per 100,000 in 2023.

This violence has taken a horrific toll on innocent Ecuadorians. Over Easter weekend, a series of massacres left 80 people dead in just three days. In one particularly gruesome attack, armed men targeted a hotel in Pedro Carbo, mistaking tourists for rival gang members. Eleven tourists were kidnapped, and six young adults were murdered.

The idyllic town of Puerto López, once a haven for whale watchers, is now plagued by gang violence. Traditional livelihoods, such as fishing and tourism, are under threat due to extortion and intimidation tactics employed by gangs.

President Noboa has vowed to fight this “state of terror” but has so far been unable to stem the tide of violence. Even the country’s youngest mayor was not spared, having been found shot dead alongside a colleague.

The Australian government has warned its citizens to exercise extreme caution when traveling to Ecuador. With curfews implemented in some areas and a heightened risk of violent crime, Ecuador is a far cry from the peaceful destination it once was.


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