Quito, Ecuador – Ecuador is reeling under a spate of attacks, kidnappings, and riots, following the dramatic escape of notorious gang leader Adolfo Macias, also known as ‘Fito’, from the La Regional prison in Guayaquil. The situation has deteriorated to such a degree that President Daniel Noboa has been compelled to declare a national state of emergency, placing the country in a state of “internal armed conflict”.

The Catalyst of Chaos
The immediate aftermath of Fito’s escape has been catastrophic. In a brazen act of defiance, armed men invaded the set of a public television channel in Guayaquil, brandishing firearms and explosives during a live broadcast. This horrifying incident, reported by WRAL, underlines the escalating boldness of criminal elements in the nation.

A Wave of Terror
Compounding the crisis, at least seven police officers have been abducted, and explosions have rocked several cities. Inmates have taken dozens of guards hostage in a series of prison riots. More than fifteen explosions and various arson attacks have been reported across Ecuador, including a bombed car at a gas station in Esmeraldas and an attacked military truck near a prison in Cuenca, as detailed in a report by EFE Noticias.

Riots and Mass Escapes in Prisons
In Riobamba, a shocking jailbreak saw 32 inmates escape, including Fabricio Colón Pico, who was arrested for allegedly plotting against Attorney General Diana Salazar. This event is a stark reminder of the rampant gang violence within Ecuador’s prison system, where over 400 inmates have perished since 2021, as reported by the Daily Star.

Government’s Response to the Crisis
In response to this unprecedented upheaval, President Noboa has enacted measures including military patrols and a national nighttime curfew. He has also declared 22 gangs as terrorist organizations, authorizing the military to engage these groups under international law. This has raised concerns about potential human rights violations, a topic often debated when the military is involved in domestic law enforcement.

Critics of these measures argue that such efforts could fuel cycles of brutal violence, similar to situations in Mexico and Colombia. However, as Ecuador confronts increasing narcotrafficking and gang-related violence, President Noboa’s administration remains resolute. These developments come amidst a backdrop of increasing gang dominance in prisons, where leaders like Macias have continued to exert influence despite incarceration, as noted in a report by the Evening Standard.