Ecuador declared a state of emergency after an explosion killed five police officers
QUITO – At least five Ecuadorean police officers were killed Tuesday in bomb attacks while transporting prisoners from overcrowded and violent penitentiaries, prompting President Guillermo Lasso to declare a state of emergency in the two states.
The conservative Lasso has repeatedly blamed the violence, including in prisons, on drug gang retaliation for his government’s efforts to fight the trade.
Ecuador is a transit point for drugs destined for the US and Europe.
The overnight and early Tuesday morning attacks, including nine explosions in the two cities, were a clear declaration of war by the gangs, Lasso said in a video message.
“What happened last night and today in Guayaquil and Esmeraldas clearly shows the limits that transnational organized crime is willing to cross,” Laso said. “We take actions that disturb them, hence the backlash.”
He declared a state of emergency in the states of Guayas and Esmeraldas, where security forces will intensify operations, and a curfew will be enforced from 9 pm local time.
Lasso, who canceled a personal trip to the United States because of the attacks, has repeatedly used emergency declarations to try to counter the violence.
Six explosions rocked several areas of the western city of Guayaquil early Tuesday, police said, and two police officers were killed in an attack on a patrol car in the suburb.
Police said on Twitter that three other officers were killed in and around the city.
Three explosions were reported at Esmeraldas and seven prison staff were taken hostage by inmates to protest the transfer.
The officers were released after negotiations, the prisons agency SNAI said.
Ecuador’s prison system has faced structural problems for decades, but prison violence has risen since late 2020, killing at least 400 people.
SNAI says 515 inmates have so far been transferred from Guayaquil’s Penitenciaria, Ecuador’s most violent prison, to other countries across the country.
The transfers are intended to reduce overcrowding and ensure the safety of the prison population, it said.
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