Mexican cartels have the country in a corner

Saint Joseph. – In an uncontrolled swarm of criminal violence, Ecuador… is becoming Mexicanized.

Mexico’s most important international drug cartels — Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and Sinaloa — detonated the worst insecurity crisis in Ecuador’s history this week, in a show of unprecedented, merciless violence in alliance with their Ecuadorian partners — “Los Tiguerones,” “Los Lobos” and “Los Choneros”— and the growing number of deaths, injuries and destruction.

“Mexican cartels prevail despite the weaknesses of institutions and government. Ecuador is on the way to becoming not only a failed state but also a narco-state,” claims Ecuadorian political scientist Sebastián Mantilla, executive director of the (non-governmental) Latin American Center for Political Studies (CELAEP) in Quito.

“Ecuador is in an unprecedented situation in terms of insecurity and violence. “Criminal groups operating at the behest of the two main Mexican drug cartels (CJNG and Sinaloa) are not only facing each other in an internal war, but are even now attacking members of the National Police,” Mantilla told EL UNIVERSAL.

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“So far this year, more than 60 police officers have been killed in Ecuador, something that has never been seen before. However, the government of (Ecuadorian) President Guillermo Lasso and his main security authorities are wrong and do not know what to do,” he warned.

After lamenting that “the unpreparedness of his closest collaborators, outdated laws and regulations, and reckless actions of the Government further worsen the situation”, he asserted that “the only thing expected” is that it will become more complicated, because insecurity and violence “Overcame the capacities of the government of President Lasso. ”

“The main prisons are in the hands of these criminal groups, and the government has not yet taken control of the penal centers,” he asserted.

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Ecuador this week, beginning Monday night and early Tuesday, rushed some 20 sabotage attacks, “car bombs” and explosives against police officers, police vehicles and headquarters and other facilities attributed to the CJNG by the Las government, but without specific alleging that the mafia. At least five policemen died from injuries, material damage and internal disorder due to the CJNG armed strike.

“What happened (…) clearly shows the limits that transnational organized crime, which we are fighting, is ready to cross. These acts of sabotage and terrorism are (…) a declaration of open war against the rule of law, the government” and “citizens”, warned Lasso in a message to the country the night before last.

“We don’t allow that. I am here and I am ready to act strictly within the law,” he announced.

Lasso imposed a state of emergency, with a curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. and for 45 days, in the provinces (states) of Esmeraldas (northwest) and Guayas (south center), as the scenes of the most serious and bloody events.

In this regard, Mantilla reminded that “states of emergency did not serve to alleviate the violence in the country.”

The crisis of insecurity in Ecuador intensified in 2021. Tiguerones and lobos gangs joined the CJNG and choneros in Sinaloa to control the smuggling of cocaine from Colombia, its largest producer in the world, into Ecuador and re-export it to Central America, Mexico, the United States and Europe.

The three networks and others, such as “Los Lagartos”, dominate Ecuador’s prisons in a deadly competition with support from Sinaloa and the CJNG that has spread to the streets.

Ecuador is a key link in the smuggling of cocaine, with official data on the annual transit of about 580 tons by land from Colombia. It borders the world’s largest producers — Colombia to the north, Peru to the east and south — and the Pacific Ocean, a maritime outlet for drugs, to the west. There is also an air flow of cocaine to and from Ecuador.

“Before our government, drug crime lived in paradise in our country. Today, drug crime feels uncomfortable and expresses its discomfort through violence. They run out of friends or leverage and intend to sow fear. But do you know something? We are not afraid of them,” warned the defiant president whose four-year term began in May 2021.

Lasso charged that these groups responded with police and military operations in prisons to seize weapons, ammunition and explosives and move criminals to other prisons to deprive them of privileges and benefits.

“The goal is to put an end to the state of crime headquarters in the detention centers of Esmeraldas and Guayaquil. We are taking action that concerns you. Hence the violent reaction,” said Lasso.

“Have you already realized that our hands will not shake when it comes to answering properly? And be careful with invoking human rights to cover up crimes! Because first there are the human rights of 18 million Ecuadorians who want to sleep in peace, go out and return home in peace,” he said.

Despite these promises, the fear remained.

“A great criminal leviathan (monster) has entered” the country, but the “imaginary government continues to believe in unreal fantasies,” condemned retired Ecuadorian colonel Mario Pazmiño, former director of Ecuadorian Army Intelligence and professor of security at the (non-state) Autonomous Regional university of the Andes of that nation.

Insecurity “spiraled out of control” 20 years ago and made it easier for organized crime to advance in “territorial positioning in Ecuador’s weak democracy,” Pazmiño told this newspaper.

“Criminal power with greater force is pushing the state into a corner with a medium- and long-term goal: a political position to dedicate itself not only to organized crime, but also to start influencing political decisions,” he predicted.

With one sentence, the retired colonel expressed pessimism: “We are broken.”

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