Ecuador in ‘state of terror’ after horrific Easter massacre

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Ecuador is in mourning after multiple massacres over the Easter weekend left 80 people dead in just three days.

Five men under 21 were killed in Puerto López, and another ten in Guayaquil during a volleyball game over the holiday period, totalling 80 violent deaths in three days.

Once considered a bastion of peace in Latin America, Ecuador has been plunged into crisis by the rapid spread of transnational cartels that use its ports to ship drugs to the United States and Europe.

Officials imposed a state of emergency in January and declared the country in a state of war against gangs after a wave of violence following the prison escape of a notorious gang leader.

Since then, the military has been deployed in the streets and taken control of the country’s prisons, where a number of gang riots in recent years has left some 460 people killed.

As drug gangs battle for supremacy, the homicide rate in Ecuador has soared from six per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018 to 46 per 100,000 in 2023.

President Daniel Noboa has declared it a “state of war” as authorities crack down on the epidemic of violence that has tarnished the nation’s reputation on the world stage.

The attack on Good Friday saw approximately 20 armed men attack a hotel in the town of Pedro Carbo in the nation’s west. The attackers kidnapped 11 tourists and killed six young adults in nearby scrubland.

Authorities believe the attackers had mistook them for rival gang members.

The attackers are believed to be part of the Los Choneros gang, a central target of law enforcement and and anti-drug trafficking campaigns.

Two suspects were arrested, with weapons, ammunition, and cell phones seized.

Puerto López, a small town once known for whale watching, now faces the threat of gang violence, which has begun to force out traditional fishing and tourism jobs due to extortion and threats.

“We watched these kids grow up and now they are the ones who have us in this state of terror,” a local resident said via El Pais.

On March 31, two gunmen with AK-47s opened fire in the city of Guayaquil during a street volleyball game, killing ten and seriously injuring nine.

“Two people died instantly” and several others died “due to the severity of their injuries” after being taken to health centers, police confirmed.

“This is a sign that narcoterrorism and its allies are looking for spaces to terrorise us, but they will not succeed,” President Noboa wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Barely a week earlier the country’s youngest mayor was found shot to death along with the municipality’s communications director,

Brigitte Garcia, the 27-year-old mayor of coastal San Vicente, was found dead alongside Jairo Loor.

“Two people were identified inside a vehicle without vital signs, with gunshot wounds,” the Ecuadoran national police said.

The shots “were not fired from the outside of the vehicle but from the inside”, according to authorities.

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Australia has cautioned travellers to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Ecuador in the current climate.

“We’ve reviewed our advice for Ecuador and continue to advise exercise a high degree of caution overall due to the threat of violent crime,” SmartTraveller advises.

“Higher levels apply in some areas. Ecuador has extended the nationwide state of emergency, with curfews in some locations. You should carry your ID at all times and follow the instructions of local authorities.

“Travel to and from airports during the curfew period is permitted for passengers travelling on scheduled flights. If you’re entering via land or river borders from Peru or Colombia, you’re required to present an apostilled police check covering the previous five years.”