Ecuador: Crime as the Government's Main Challenge for 2011

One of the outstanding social responsibilities of the government of Rafael Correa is public safety. United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston issued a report about his visit to Ecuador in June 2010 which [es] quoted: “The homicide rate in Ecuador has doubled in the last 20 years. In 1990 it was 10.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, in 2009 it was 18.7 and up to date the estimate suggests an increase to 20.”

Back in 2007, FLACSO [es] (Latin American Social Sciences Institute) scholar Fernando Carrion Mena, quoting a study by the Inter-American Development Bank, wrote that economic costs of criminal violence in Ecuador are quite high and that they are dramatically increasing over time.

Ecuadorian police stands guard on a street in Guayaquil. Photo by Flickr user ‘rumble fish’ and used under Creative Commons license

Andrés Rodríguez from Modestamente Humano [es] writes about his experience with a street vendor selling movies while he rode a bus in Quito. He talked to the vendor who told him he was frustrated because he hadn't made a sell and thought he better get another job: stealing.

Blogger Sebas of Desde el rincón de mi vida [es] feels sad about how he's had to start the new year: his friend was killed and to make things worse the hired assassin shot his friend by mistake. He calls on everyone to show each other affection and love, but also criticizes the absence of drive from some Ecuadorians:

Resignación dicen algunos, […] resignarse ante la violencia es darles la victoria a los malos, es seguir dejando pasar, es pretender que la gente asesinada es un número más, no pienso hacer eso, resignarse jamás.

Resignation some say, […] resigning ourselves to violence is to concede the victory to the bad people, it is letting it go, it is pretending that the murdered people are just another number, I will not do that, I'll never resign myself to that.

Many people have been writing letters to the President begging him to take immediate action against crime. But in a speech at one of the largest prisons in Guayaquil, he expressed that such offenders are victims of the society, and they deserve a second opportunity, as Carlos Sagnay of Desde mi trinchera [es] writes:

[Correa] visitó la Penitenciaría del Litoral, se dirigió a los delincuentes, asaltantes y asesinos, y les dijo que por culpa de asambleístas opositores están cumpliendo penas largas.

[Correa] visited the Coastal Prison, he addressed the criminals, thieves and murderers, and told them that because of opposition Assembly members they are serving long sentences.

In Dialogo con Joselias [es] journalist and blogger Joselias, who writes from the Manabí province, echoes what is happening in Ecuador's main port, Guayaquil. He reports that even Intelligence Police can't get away from violence; Joselias explains that two officers were shot in southeastern Guayaquil.

Poverty, unemployment, and lack of education are factors that have led many to commit crimes and if caught serve prison terms. But in reference to the presidential visit to the coastal prison in Guayaquil, Manuel Ignacio Gomez of Hoy y Ahora [es] argues that one thing is to be concerned about their rights and rehabilitation, and another is to side with them, as if the President cared more about the welfare of the delinquents than the lives of the victims:

Muy bien que Correa se preocupe por la rehabilitación de los presos y mejorar las condiciones en las cárceles. Adelante. Tiene razón que la solución no está en encerrarlos para que se pudran, sino en convertirlos en personas útiles a la sociedad con verdaderos programas de rehabilitación. Los derechos humanos son para todos, incluyendo los presos. Pero esto de poco servirá si el Presidente no asume su papel con posturas, declaraciones y acciones prácticas, firmes y duras contra la delincuencia.

It's good that Correa worries about the rehabilitation of prisoners and the improvement of prison conditions. Go ahead. You're right that the solution is not to lock them up so they rot, but make them useful to society with genuine rehabilitation programs. Human rights are for everyone, including prisoners. But this is of little use if the President does not assume his role with positions, statements and practical actions, hard and tough against crime.

Another issue that concerns Ecuadorians is the growing number of adolescents involved in criminal offenses. The use of minors as young as 10 years old to commit offenses is also taking place; children can’t be incarcerated under these offenses.

Juancabrito in his blog [es] writes that the media invests too much time opposing the government but they forget to educate. The media, he says, needs to move from the “pseudo analysis” to a concrete reality. He is confident that President Correa, who now personally oversees public safety in Ecuador, will succeed, even with criticism from the opposition.


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