Ecuador was calm and peaceful. Now hitmen, kidnappers and robbers walk the streets

by Ethan Kim
fokus keyword: crime

Ecuador was once a peaceful and serene country, but now it is afflicted with rampant crime. Hitmen, kidnappers, and thieves roam the streets, casting a shadow of fear over ordinary citizens.

Belen Diaz, a college student studying to become a teacher, narrowly escaped robbery one evening when two men on a motorcycle pursued her. She managed to find refuge with a cab driver, but the following day, a deadly shooting occurred near her home in the city of Guayaquil.

The country’s tranquility began to unravel about three years ago, and now criminals, including professional assassins and kidnappers, are preying on both wealthy and working-class areas. Cartels from Mexico and Colombia have also established footholds in coastal cities, commandeering large portions of the drug trade that ships hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine abroad.

In a shocking incident, a presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, known for his strong stance against organized crime, was murdered in broad daylight. The situation has escalated to a point where “no one is safe from the insecurity in the country,” according to Anthony Garcia, a shrimp packer.

Violent deaths have surged in the country, with the National Police recording 3,568 deaths in the first half of the year, surpassing the previous year’s total. The underlying reasons are multifaceted, with battles between gangs, political turmoil, financial strains, and the COVID-19 pandemic all playing roles.

Criminals have started to demand protection money, termed as “vacuna,” or vaccine, from businesses. The phrase highlights the grim reality of crime as the only immunity to criminal threats.

The situation has altered the daily life of Ecuadorians. Many stores and eateries have installed additional security measures, and the fear of robbery has increased. Reports of theft have soared, with 31,485 cases registered last year.

Various gangs, such as Los Choneros, Los Lobos, and Los Tiguerones, are battling for territory and control, resulting in high levels of violence, especially in prisons. The death of a notorious gang leader in 2020 triggered unprecedented chaos.

Ecuador’s law enforcement is struggling, outgunned, and ill-equipped to deal with the rising crime rates. Areas of neighborhoods and prisons have become no-go zones. Local residents have even contributed to fueling police vehicles.

The city of Guayaquil is the focal point of violence, witnessing about a third of the year’s violent deaths. The atmosphere is tense, with fear and paranoia pervading everyday life.

Police stations have become fortresses, with out-of-date equipment and inadequate facilities. The tourism industry even had to provide accommodations for officers due to the poor condition of their barracks.

Stray bullets have become a public concern, with tragic consequences like the injury of a young boy who lost his ability to move from the waist down.

The prevailing fear and distrust have altered the fabric of Ecuadorian society. People are more cautious, even adopting strategies to avoid victimization. Belen Diaz, for instance, carries a decoy phone to hand over if robbed again and avoids social activities that might put her at risk.

“I’m going to stay single forever. I can’t go dating on these weird apps. I mean, imagine, they could kidnap me! Life is not what it used to be,” laments Diaz, reflecting the collective sense of loss and fear that permeates a country once known for its calm and peaceful existence.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword: crime

What happened to Belen Diaz as she was walking home from college?

Belen Diaz was pursued by two men on a motorcycle, appearing to attempt robbery. Terrified, she managed to escape by banging on a cab window and getting the driver to take her home.

Who was the presidential candidate that was fatally shot?

Fernando Villavicencio was the presidential candidate who was fatally shot in broad daylight, despite having a security detail including police and bodyguards.

What are the cartels from other countries doing in Ecuador?

Mexican and Colombian cartels have settled into coastal cities like Guayaquil in Ecuador and taken over significant parts of the trade shipping hundreds of millions of dollars of cocaine from neighboring Colombia and Peru to other countries.

How has daily life changed in Ecuador due to the rise in crime?

Daily life has become filled with fear and caution. Businesses have installed metal bars and detectors, reports of robbery have soared, and people are adopting strategies to avoid victimization, such as carrying decoy phones.

What is the situation with law enforcement in Ecuador?

Law enforcement in Ecuador is struggling, being outgunned, unprepared, and underpaid. Officers are equipped with outdated gear and face ammunition shortages. In some neighborhoods, they are even funded by local residents for necessities like gasoline.

What are some major gangs involved in the crime surge in Ecuador?

Some major gangs involved in the crime surge in Ecuador include Los Choneros, Los Lobos, and Los Tiguerones. They have been fighting over territory and control, including within prisons, and have links to major cartels from Colombia and Mexico.

How has the crime affected the tourism industry in Ecuador?

The crime has led to increased security measures and a general atmosphere of fear, which likely has impacted the attractiveness of Ecuador as a tourist destination. The tourism industry has also had to provide support for police officers, such as housing.

What is the significance of the term “vacuna” in the context of Ecuador’s crime?

The term “vacuna,” or “vaccine,” is used by criminals to describe protection money demanded from businesses, symbolizing immunity from crime. It reflects a grim reality where crime has become a pervasive threat.

What is the state of Guayaquil in relation to the crime wave in Ecuador?

Guayaquil is the epicenter of violence in Ecuador. About a third of the country’s violent deaths occurred in this city. It’s home to the country’s main commercial port and has become a focal point of fear and crime-related activity.

What has caused the unprecedented violence in Ecuador?

The causes are complex and multifaceted, revolving around battles between gangs, political infighting, financial strains, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The killing of Jorge Zambrano, a notorious gang leader, in 2020 also triggered chaos.

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Mike_D August 14, 2023 - 8:14 am

Wow, im shocked by the numbers. violence, robbery and all this insecurity. things need to change and soon. Can’t the international community step in?

ChrisT August 14, 2023 - 10:42 am

I knew crime was bad there but this is next level! Those poor people living in constant fear, i can’t even imagine. we need to spread awareness and help.

SaraJane August 14, 2023 - 8:04 pm

This is an eye-opener. Why is this not on the news more? People need to know! So many lives affected and the government has to do somthing!

Jenny M. August 14, 2023 - 8:06 pm

I can’t beleive whats happening in Ecuador, it’s so sad to see how things are changing. Crime everywhere, fear in the people’s eyes. What’s next?

Tom42 August 14, 2023 - 9:37 pm

the details are terrifying. I visited Guayaquil few years ago. Was so different. I hope they can find a way to deal with the cartels. Prayers for them

Lilly-May August 15, 2023 - 4:24 am

I’ve friends in Ecuador and they’re telling me how bad it is. this article tells it like it is. hope the government can clean up this mess and soon… so many lives at stake!


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