Ecuador’s president declares war on drug gangs amid wave of violence

Ecuador’s president declared a state of war against drug cartels Wednesday following three days of violence during which gangs have clashed with the country's armed forces, News.Az reports citing Anadolu Agency. 

In an interview with local radio station Radio Canela, Daniel Noboa spoke of the "terrorist acts" and dramatic surge in violence that have rattled the country.

"We are at war. We cannot surrender to these terrorists. We are doing what is necessary to eliminate insecurity. These gangs think that they will break the president by raiding television broadcasts and taking security forces hostage, but they will not succeed," said Noboa.

The armed clashes have left 11 people dead so far. Authorities have also reported violent acts such as the torching of vehicles, blockades and bombings in a number of provinces.

In addition, the National Service for Attention to Persons Deprived of Liberty, the body in charge of the country's prisons, announced Wednesday that inmates had taken 139 guards and other staff hostage.

On Tuesday, Noboa announced a state of “internal armed conflict" and declared 22 criminal groups active in the country terrorist organizations. Through a presidential decree, he deployed troops to battle the criminal gangs terrorizing the population.

According to Noboa, labeling the groups terrorist organizations enables the government to take various measures against them.

"All these terrorist groups are military objectives, and if you want to brave and fight against the military head on," he said.

The decree was signed after gunmen raided the set of the TC Television network in the city of Guayaquil during a live broadcast, taking hostages while waving weapons and grenades.

The same day, armed men took over the facilities of a university in Guayaquil, holding students at gunpoint.

Thirteen suspects have been arrested for the attack on the television studio.

Noboa also announced drastic measures such as a curfew in the country and a crackdown on judiciary officials.

"We will consider judges and prosecutors who support identified leaders of these terrorist groups as part of the terrorist groups as well," he said during the radio interview.

Noboa also said the country would begin to deport foreign prisoners, especially Colombians, to reduce the prison population, noting that prisoners from Colombia, Peru and Venezuela represent 90% of the foreigners incarcerated in the country.

According to the president, up to 1,500 Colombian prisoners will be deported this week.

The wave of violence in the country follows the escape of Jose Adolfo Macias, alias "El Fito," the leader of "Los Choneros," a violent organization responsible for drug trafficking in the country and the alleged armed branch of the Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexican criminal syndicate.

Last Sunday, Macias escaped from his cell in Guayaquil's Litoral prison along with other high-profile inmates. He was serving a 34-year sentence since 2011 after being convicted of drug trafficking, murder and organized crime.


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