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Ecuador’s newly sworn-in president repeals guidelines allowing people to carry limited drug amounts

by Joshua Brown
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Ecuador Drug Guidelines Repeal

Ecuador’s newly inaugurated President, Daniel Noboa, wasted no time in fulfilling a campaign promise aimed at combating drug trafficking. Within less than 48 hours of taking office, President Noboa repealed controversial guidelines that had been in place for the past decade. These guidelines, originally established by the country’s left-leaning government, had eliminated penalties for individuals found in possession of illegal drugs below specific quantities.

The decision to repeal these guidelines comes in response to the alarming consequences of the illegal drug trade, especially in relation to cocaine. Ecuador has witnessed a surge in violent crimes such as killings, kidnappings, robberies, and extortion, causing anxiety among its citizens.

In an official statement from President Noboa’s office, the previous guidelines were criticized for their role in promoting “micro-trafficking” and deemed harmful to Ecuadorian society. As a countermeasure, President Noboa has instructed the ministries of interior and public health to collaborate on the development of comprehensive information, prevention, and control programs addressing the consumption of narcotic and psychotropic substances. Furthermore, there is a commitment to provide treatment and rehabilitation services to both habitual and problematic occasional users.

It’s worth noting that the now-repealed guidelines were initially introduced in 2013 during the presidency of Rafael Correa. At that time, the argument was made that illegal drug use should be considered a public health concern, and therefore, users should not face imprisonment. These guidelines sought to draw a distinction between drug consumption and drug trafficking by specifying allowable quantities for personal use, such as up to 10 grams of marijuana, 2 grams of cocaine paste, 1 gram of cocaine, 0.10 grams of heroin, and 0.04 grams of amphetamine.

However, from their inception, these guidelines faced staunch criticism from Ecuador’s political right and its generally conservative society. President Noboa’s repeal of these guidelines raises questions about how the legal system will now differentiate between drug consumers and traffickers when determining potential penalties. This complexity is further compounded by a ruling from Ecuador’s Constitutional Court, which had previously ordered judges to make this distinction but was reliant on the now-repealed guidelines.

President Noboa assumed office after winning a runoff election against Luisa Gonzalez, who had ties to former President Correa. His term, which commenced recently, is set to last until May 2025, filling the remainder of his predecessor Guillermo Lasso’s tenure. Lasso, during his time in office, faced a significant surge in violent deaths, with a record-breaking 4,600 such incidents recorded in 2022, double the previous year’s figure.

The rise in violence is closely linked to the trafficking of cocaine originating from neighboring Colombia and Peru. Mexican, Colombian, and Balkan cartels have established a presence in Ecuador, often collaborating with local criminal groups. The challenge ahead for President Noboa is to address these complex issues surrounding drug trafficking and violence in Ecuador during his abbreviated term in office.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ecuador Drug Guidelines Repeal

What were the controversial guidelines repealed by President Noboa in Ecuador?

President Noboa repealed guidelines that had eliminated penalties for individuals found in possession of illegal drugs below certain quantities. These guidelines were initially established in 2013 and aimed to distinguish between drug consumption and drug trafficking by specifying allowable quantities for personal use.

Why did President Noboa decide to repeal these guidelines?

President Noboa’s decision to repeal the guidelines was driven by his campaign promise to combat drug trafficking. The illegal drug trade, especially cocaine, had led to a surge in violent crimes in Ecuador, including killings, kidnappings, robberies, and extortion. The guidelines were seen as encouraging “micro-trafficking” and were deemed harmful to Ecuadorian society.

What actions has President Noboa taken in response to the repeal of these guidelines?

In response to the repeal, President Noboa directed the ministries of interior and public health to develop coordinated programs for information, prevention, and control of narcotic and psychotropic substance consumption. Additionally, there is a commitment to providing treatment and rehabilitation services for both habitual and problematic occasional users.

What challenges may arise from the repeal of these guidelines?

One major challenge is how the legal system will now distinguish between drug consumers and traffickers when determining potential penalties, as the guidelines that provided this distinction have been repealed. This complexity is further compounded by a previous ruling from Ecuador’s Constitutional Court, which relied on the now-repealed guidelines.

What is the context of the surge in violence in Ecuador mentioned in the text?

The rise in violence in Ecuador is closely linked to the trafficking of cocaine, primarily from neighboring countries like Colombia and Peru. Mexican, Colombian, and Balkan cartels have established a presence in Ecuador and often collaborate with local criminal groups, contributing to the increase in violent incidents.

How long will President Noboa’s term in office last?

President Noboa’s term in office will run until May 2025, filling the remainder of his predecessor Guillermo Lasso’s tenure. Lasso had shortened his term by dissolving the National Assembly in response to impeachment proceedings against him.

What is the significance of the 2022 violent death figures mentioned in the text?

The 2022 violent death figures, which reached a record 4,600, were double the number from the previous year. This surge in violence under President Lasso’s watch highlighted the pressing issue of drug-related violence in Ecuador, particularly as it pertains to cocaine trafficking.

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