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After Guayaquil killings, Ecuador to beef up police force

FILE PHOTO: Police officers signal to cars to stop during a search for weapons and other illegal items during an operation to curb increasing violence, at a checkpoint, in Guayaquil, Ecuador December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced on Sunday that an additional 1,100 police officers will be sent to the coastal city of Guayaquil, as well as an increase in military presence, in response to a spate of violent deaths linked to the fight against the drug trade, according to the government.

The news: Late last year, violence and criminality in Ecuador, especially within the jail system, increased dramatically. The administration has blamed the violence on drug gangs who exploit the country as a transit route for drugs bound for the US and Europe.

  • Lasso announced a state of emergency, which ended in mid-December, and deployed hundreds of soldiers in dangerous regions, despite locals and analysts claiming that boots on the ground fail to address the underlying poverty and inadequate policing.

What he said: “These achievements have reduced the territory of the mafias where they acted without state presence,” Lasso told journalists. “Notwithstanding, those actions also have consequences like the increase in violent deaths on the streets.”

  • Lasso, a conservative banker who surprisingly won the presidency in April, also said that he is replacing the national police commander and will invest $9 million on police equipment, without providing any information.

What’s going on: Lasso’s announcement came as police investigated a Friday attack in a working-class district of Guayaquil that left at least five people dead and nine others injured, as well as the death of a Dutch tourist days earlier in another section of town.

  • According to Lasso, the government intercepted 15 tonnes of cocaine in January, more than triple the amount seized in the same month last year, and drug trafficking through the port of Guayaquil has practically ceased thanks to the establishment of a new police intelligence centre.
  • From Sunday, soldiers will take part in operations in Guayaquil and reinforce the country’s borders with Colombia and Peru to combat drug and arms trafficking, according to Lasso.
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