Eight articles to help you understand the violence in Ecuador

Illustration by Distintas Latitudes. Used with permission.

This article was written by Distintas Latitudes and published on January 10, 2023. An edited version is republished on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

An armed group took over the facilities of the Ecuadorian channel TC Televisión in Guayaquil for several minutes on January 9, 2024, while a live broadcast was being aired. The channel workers were held hostage and later released by the Ecuadorian Police.

For several hours, Ecuador experienced a particularly chaotic and violent day — after several months of incremental violence ― with news of lootings in the capital, Quito, the suspension of classes in all the country's universities, and reports of the presence of armed groups of organized crime in prisons and hospitals.

Since January 8, two of the most dangerous criminals in the country have been on the run. Ecuador's prisons are a territory without law and order.

Following the events, the newly appointed president, Daniel Noboa, who has been in office for 50 days, signed Decree 111, which designates the existence of an “armed internal conflict” in the country, identifies more than 20 gangs and criminal groups, and authorizes the armed forces to develop operations to combat them.

Faced with this situation, Distintas Latitudes took on the task of compiling articles, reports, and content that help provide context and explain the violence Ecuador is experiencing. The recommendations are from the Distintas Latitudes team: Karol Noroña, Ana Cristina Basantes, Valentín Díaz, and Samantha Proaño, Ecuadorian journalists who participated in the X Space produced by Distintas Latitudes “What is happening in Ecuador?”

Screenshot of the AP's website taken on January 18, 2024.

1. “We are live”: Gunmen attack television station in Ecuador in the midst of an upsurge in violence, by AP

This article explains step by step what happened at TC Televisión in Guayaquil and the context of the situation. It is a “very good article to explain what has happened these days,” says Karol Noroña. It was written by journalists from Guayaquil, Ecuador.

2. Daniel Noboa declares an “internal armed conflict” in Ecuador after the irruption of an armed commando on a television channel, by El País

Ana Cristina Basantes offers this text published in El País, which provides a general explanation of the events of January 9, including details of the takeover of TC Televisión in Guayaquil and the political decisions that had to be made in the face of the population's panic and the tensions generated due to the magnitude of the violence.

Screenshot of Plan V's website taken on January 18 2024.

3. What does Ecuador's “internal armed conflict?” mean?, by Plan V

This article explains well the implications of Decree 111 signed by President Daniel Noboa, as an extension of the State of Exception that he had already declared. It is the decree that opened an unprecedented situation in the country. The Government declared the people involved as terrorists, but at the same time recognized as non-state belligerents; and pointed to at least 22 criminal gangs, some of which have grudges against each other. Several experts reacted to the scope of the unprecedented measure.

4. Days before the escape, the SNAI did not show up at the appeal hearing against Fito, by Plan V

This is an excellent article to understand one of the triggers and background of the escape of alias Fito, leader of the Los Choneros gang, one of Ecuador's biggest criminal organizations. According to Karol Noroña, it is important because it shows the state's negligence and complicity in the events of January 9.

5. Prison pacification in 2022 was a failure: an analysis, by GK

It is a report by the Ecuadorian journalist in exile Karol E. Noroña that includes voices of prisoners, families, experts, and confidential sources from prisons, which explain the entire failed pacification policy. It explains the lies and missteps of the government of former President Guillermo Lasso, which have contributed to the current situation. It is a worthwhile read to delve deeper into the context of prisons in Ecuador and their role in this social crisis.

6. Documentary Los Choneros: two decades of violence, by Plan V

Valentín Díaz recommends this investigation that delves into the origins and history of Los Choneros, Ecuador's main criminal gang. It details how and who created it and what happened in the organization after its top boss, Jorge Luis Zambrano, alias “Rasquiña,” was murdered in 2020.

7. What is behind the wave of violence in Ecuador?, El Hilo Podcast

Samantha Proaño, a journalist from Cuenca, Ecuador, brings us this episode of El Hilo published in November 2021, when the violence in Ecuador was beginning to be noticeable and a topic of attention on the continent. The episode answers fundamental questions to understand the political and social crisis in Ecuador and how the country went from being a transit zone to occupying a leading role in drug trafficking in the region.

Screenshot of El Hilo's website taken on January 18, 2024.

8. The invisible children of coca, by GK

We also recommend this chronicle report that shows the reality of childhoods in one of the most conflictive neighborhoods of Portoviejo, the capital of the province of Manabí, Ecuador, between violence, poverty, and the micro-trafficking of cocaine and marijuana as the only alternative for survival.

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