Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Hostage taking live on Ecuadorian public television< /p>Open in full screen mode

Ecuadorian authorities quickly put an end to the assault.

Agence France-Presse

The latest and spectacular episode of an unprecedented security crisis in Ecuador, armed men burst into the set of a public television station in Guayaquil [southwest] on Tuesday afternoon, briefly taking journalists and journalists hostage. other chain employees.

Don't shoot, please don't shoot! shouts a woman amid the gunfire, while the attackers, armed with pistols, shotguns and grenades, beat the terrorized people and force them to the ground.

Hooded, under hoods or in caps with their faces exposed, several film themselves and make with the fingers of both hands the usual signs of recognition of the criminal gangs linked to drug trafficking which are causing a reign of terror in Ecuador.

They came in to kill us; my God, protect us, sent one of the captive journalists to an AFP correspondent, in a WhatsApp message.

Amid the gunshots, the broadcast of these surreal images continued live for several minutes, despite the lights on the set going out and the camera freezing. Until the intervention of the police with shouts of Police! Police!.

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Police officers arrest one of the armed men who burst onto a public television set in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

With this new resounding incident, the results of which are still unknown, culminates a security crisis that nothing seems to be able to stem, after three days marked by the escape of a dangerous gang leader, cascading mutinies in the prisons, the proclamation of a state of emergency and the kidnapping of police officers, among others.

These are extremely difficult, the executive having taken the important decision to fight head-on against these terrorist threats, commented Tuesday the communications secretary of the presidency, Roberto Izurieta.

The crisis began on Sunday with the spectacular escape of Adolfo Macias, alias Fito, 44, the leader of the Choneros. This gang of around 8,000 men has, according to experts, become the main player in Ecuador's thriving drug trade.

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Often described as public enemy number 1, suspected of being involved in the resounding assassination of one of the main presidential candidates in August 2022, the man has disappeared from a high-security facility in the vast Guayaquil complex where he had been serving a 34-year prison sentence since 2011 for organized crime, drug trafficking and murder. He had already escaped from a high-security prison in 2013 and was recaptured three months later.

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Adolfo Macias, aka “Fito”, is the leader of the largest criminal gang .

His escape was followed by several mutinies and hostage-taking of guards in various prisons, all relayed by frightening videos broadcast on social networks showing the captives threatened by the knives of masked detainees.

The youngest president in the history of Ecuador, President Noboa, 36, declared a state of emergency for 60 days throughout the country on Monday ;Ecuador. The army is thus authorized to maintain order in the streets (with a nighttime curfew) and prisons.

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Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa during a visit to a factory in Quito in September 2023

With clearly little effect so far: seven police officers were kidnapped during the night from Monday to Tuesday. Explosions were also reported in an attack on a police station, and the home of the President of the National Court and vehicles were set on fire. The local press spoke of a night of terror and a failed state.

A video posted on social networks shows three of the kidnapped police officers being forced under threat handguns, to read a message addressed to the head of state: You have declared war, you are going to have war. […] You have declared a state of emergency, we declare the police, civilians and military spoils of war.

New humiliation Tuesday, the authorities announced the escape of another drug trafficker, Fabricio Colon Pico, one of the leaders of Los Lobos , a rival criminal gang of the Choneros. He was arrested Friday for misdemeanor kidnapping and alleged responsibility in a plot to assassinate the attorney general.

The government deplored a very high level of infiltration of criminal groups within the state and described the Ecuadorian prison system as a failure.

We will not negotiate with terrorists and we will not stop until we bring peace to all Ecuadorians.

A quote from Daniel Noboa, President of Ecuador

From Sunday, heavily armed police officers and soldiers entered several prisons, particularly where guards had been kidnapped.

Security forces broadcast spectacular images of these interventions, showing hundreds of detainees in their underwear, hands on their heads and lying unceremoniously on the ground. The prison administration (SNAI) affirmed that no one was injured following these incidents.

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Security forces seated the detainees before laying them down .

These images are reminiscent in every way of the communication of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, credited with having restored, thanks to his war against gangs, security in his country , however at the cost of restricting prisoners' rights, according to human rights organizations.

Formerly a haven of peace, the x27;Ecuador became a logistics center for shipping cocaine to the United States and Europe. The country is today ravaged by the violence of gangs and drug traffickers. The number of homicides increased by almost 800% between 2018 and 2023, from 6 to 46 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Prisons, overcrowded and with more than 31,000 detainees, are experiencing recurring massacres between rival gangs, at least 12 since February 2021, which have left more than 460 detainees dead.

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