Explosive violence in Ecuador as President names terrorist gangs

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador – Gunmen armed with explosives stormed a TV station on Tuesday during a wave of violence in Ecuador that prompted President Daniel Noboa to name 22 gangs as terrorist organizations to be targeted by the military. The incident at TC’s studio in Guayaquil was broadcast on-air, with men wielding guns and disrupting a live broadcast, along with explosions and kidnappings of police officers in various parts of the country.

President Noboa, who took office in November, declared a 60-day state of emergency in response to the recent prison violence and the apparent escape of a gang leader over the weekend. The violence has been attributed to a reaction against Noboa’s plan to build a new high-security prison and transfer jailed gang leaders, which has led to a wave of unrest and instability in the country.

In response to the violence, Noboa recognized an “internal armed conflict” and identified nearly two dozen gangs as terrorist groups, including Los Choneros. The decree made the gangs military targets, as the government seeks to restore order amid the escalating violence.

The attack on the TV station and the broader wave of violence have raised concerns about the effectiveness of Noboa’s efforts to control violence in the country, particularly as violent deaths have nearly doubled from the previous year, reaching a total of 8,008 in 2023. The unrest has also affected the country’s economy, with Ecuadorean sovereign bonds falling in response to the ongoing turmoil.

The government’s response to the violence has garnered support from neighboring South American nations, with Peru declaring an emergency along its border with Ecuador, and Brazil, Colombia, and Chile expressing their support for Noboa’s administration. China also closed its embassy and consulates until further notice, signaling the international impact of the turmoil in Ecuador.

As Ecuador grapples with the aftermath of the violence, authorities are taking steps to restore order and ensure the safety of the public. The police have made arrests in connection with the incidents, and efforts are underway to address the ongoing security challenges facing the nation.