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Everything to Know About Ecuador’s War on Drugs and Gangs’ Bloody Retaliation


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A bomb was detonated on a street in southeastern Guayaquil leaving five dead and 17 injured. In the midst of a campaign against drug trafficking that has left record numbers of seizures in Ecuador by the government of Guillermo Lasso, drug cartels have responded with a direct attack on the civilian population.

The attack has led the Government to declare a state of emergency in Guayaquil. The Minister of Government, Francisco Jimenez, described the attack as a “terrorist act” while the Interior Minister, Patricio Carrillo, called it a “declaration of war against the State.”


Along with drug seizures, violence in Ecuador has doubled compared to 2020 and today the homicide rate stands at 14 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

The presence of Mexican cartels has increased in the South American country. Today, criminal gangs in Ecuador are immersed in a conflict driven by rivalries in Mexico.

Ecuador’s war: street and prisons violence

The riots in Ecuador’s prisons have been the most explicit demonstration of these internal wars among cartels. The latest riot occurred on July 18 in the Bellavista Prison in the central province of Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas. The R7 gang massacred 12 of its own, whom it suspected of being dissidents. The bloodiest prison gang confrontation occurred in September 2021, the balance: 118 prisoners were killed.

This type of confrontation, which has left dozens dead, has become more common in Ecuador’s prisons, which are suffering from critical overcrowding. This has led prison authorities to refer to the current system as a “time bomb.” In the last two years, prison violence has left 400 people dead.

This violence is reflected in the streets and the province of Guayaquil, whose capital is Guayaquil (same name), which is now on par in violence with the states of Jalisco and Sinaloa in Mexico, or Cauca in Colombia. Since the beginning of the year, drug trafficking in Ecuador has left 1,255 dead.

At present, three Ecuadorian provinces are under emergency due to an increase in drug-related violence: Guayas, Manabi and Esmeraldas.

Because of their direct access to the Pacific, control of these provinces is essential for drug gangs, as they can establish a drug corridor that connects to Colombia, Panama and Central America.

Carteles de la droga declaran guerra al Gobierno de Ecuador

Along with drug seizures, violence in Ecuador has increased. (EFE)

The influence of Mexican cartels, along with coexistence with Colombian armed groups, has led to the Ecuadorian underworld becoming known as the “United Nations of organized crime.

Although historically, Ecuadorian criminal gangs have, for the most part, been dominated by the influences of more organized Colombian criminal groups, this has begun to change and what were once fragmented neighborhood gangs are now organized structures with national and international influence.

Through direct contact with Mexican cartels, gangs such as Los Choneros or R7 have transcended prisons and today fight over entire neighborhoods and drug trafficking corridors along the country’s coastal zone. The small gang fights that used to be fought with guns are now escalating in intensity and have degraded into full-blown gun battles. Ecuadorian authorities are seizing up to 18 long guns on a daily basis.

Ecuador has ceased to be a simple cocaine producer and has become a prized distributor for organizations north of its border. The price is being paid by its civilian population, which has been plunged into terror caused by organized drug trafficking groups.

Economist, writer and liberal. With a focus on finance, the war on drugs, history, and geopolitics // Economista, escritor y liberal. Con enfoque en finanzas, guerra contra las drogas, historia y geopolítica

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