Violent Attack on TV Studio Exposes Ecuador’s Soaring Criminal Violence

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador — The recent surge in violence in Ecuador has been on the rise, with a shocking attack on a television station during a live broadcast shedding light on the country’s escalating turmoil. The incident revealed the dangerous state of affairs following the apparent escape of a notorious drug gang leader from prison.

The imprisoned leader of a drug gang mysteriously vanished from his cell in the coastal city of Guayaquil, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency. During a live broadcast on TC Television, viewers witnessed armed and masked men threatening presenters and studio hands with firearms and explosives. Sounds resembling shots were audible, as well as pleas and moans of pain, creating a terrifying scene.

In response to the attack, 13 people were arrested and will be charged with terrorism, facing up to 13 years imprisonment. The violence stems from the recent escape of Los Choneros gang leader Adolfo Macías, alias “Fito,” who had been serving a 36-year sentence for murder, drug trafficking, and other crimes.

The surge in violence began in Feb 2021 with a massacre inside the country’s most violent prison, known as the Literol penitentiary, leaving at least 79 dead. This event sparked a series of shocking episodes within the Ecuadorian prisons and eventually led to street violence such as kidnapping, murder, and extortion.

In an effort to control the situation, President Daniel Noboa has decreed a state of emergency and imposed a curfew, tasking police and armed forces with enforcing compliance. Furthermore, the attack on TC Television prompted another decree, recognizing the country’s armed, domestic conflict and identifying more than a dozen organizations as “terrorists and belligerent non-state actors,” including the Choneros, Lobos, Tiguerones, and Aguilas. The decree also allows the armed forces to carry out military operations “to neutralize the identified groups,” while observing international humanitarian law.

The recent surge in violence in Ecuador is a cause for concern, with prison disputes between gangs spilling into the streets and affecting the daily lives of Ecuadorians. The government’s response, including the declaration of a state of emergency and recognition of armed conflict, underscores the severity of the situation that has engulfed the country in fear and chaos. Last year, Ecuador experienced its bloodiest on record, with more than 7,600 murders, marking a significant surge from the prior year’s statistics.