Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso has announced a 9pm curfew under a new state of emergency in the affected Guayas and Esmeraldas regions of the country amid an ongoing and unprecedented escalation of gang violence there, reports Dan Collyns for The Guardian. So far this week, two headless bodies were discovered hanging from a pedestrian bridge, prison guards were taken hostage by inmates, nine car bombs detonated in two coastal cities, and five police officers were shot dead.
Lasso called the violent incidents “a declaration of open war” and said he was “prepared to act harshly”, with soldiers and police having already raided jails and seized weapons, ammunition, explosives and phones. Analysts say criminal gangs emboldened by lucrative links to Mexican drug cartels are using terror tactics to intimidate the authorities and civilians. More than 400 prison inmates have been killed – many burned alive or beheaded –since February 2021 in an explosive rise in murders as rival gangs fight for control of lucrative cocaine trafficking routes to the US and Europe. The country of nearly 18 million teeters on the edge of becoming a narco-state.