ByRODRIGO ABD Related Press
October 13, 2023, 12:02 AM
DURAN, Ecuador — Dismembered limbs lie on the road subsequent to enjoying kids. Prisons are arenas of gang warfare. Bloodshed retains colleges shut down. And a presidential candidate is assassinated in broad daylight.
That is the brand new Ecuador.
The South American nation of 18 million individuals was lengthy a spot of calm in a area shaken by political upheaval, financial turmoil and guerrilla warfare. However a wave of prison violence has surged in recent times, upending life for Ecuadorians.
The bloodshed is a product of narco gangs tiring of enjoying cat-and-mouse with the authorities in additional militarized international locations like Colombia and Mexico. They’re searching for out smuggling routes in new international locations with much less vigilance.
Authorities documented 4,603 homicides in 2022, almost doubling the toll of the earlier 12 months and making Ecuador one of the harmful international locations in Latin America.
This 12 months, violence and drug seizures have solely continued to soar within the lead-up to the nation’s presidential run-off election Oct. 15.
Nowhere has been hit more durable than Guayaquil, Ecuador’s greatest metropolis and residential to the nation’s most bustling port, from which medication and different unlawful items pour out.
Gunshots recurrently ring out, their sounds reverberating over multi-colored houses that wind up into the mountains overlooking the close by Pacific. Rigidity grips the streets, the place closely armed police and troopers patrol and typically roar by atop tanks.
As the federal government struggles to maintain an rising flock of narco teams at bay, issues got here to a head in August when an anti-corruption presidential hopeful, Fernando Villavicencio, was gunned down whereas leaving a marketing campaign occasion lower than two weeks earlier than the primary spherical of the presidential election.
Shortly earlier than his loss of life, the candidate had despatched a message: “I’m not scared.”
Few others within the Andean nation can say the identical.
AP reporter Megan Janetsky contributed to this report from Mexico Metropolis.