There were horrific scenes live on Ecuadorian television as 13 gunmen stormed a news studio, interrupting a live broadcast by taking news anchors hostage. Ecuador is now in a state of emergency as gangs continue to wreak havoc.
TV Studio Assault Shocks Ecuador
In a display of violence that unfolded at approximately 2 pm local time, an Ecuadorian TV channel experienced a live news broadcast interruption by a group of masked men armed with guns, grenades, and dynamite.
The assailants, numbering about 13, pointed guns at the employees, forcing them to lie on the floor. A plea of desperation echoed, “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot!”
This shocking incident occurred in the city of Guayaquil, reflecting a rare and audacious assault that targeted the TC Televisión studio. The situation was part of a series of coordinated attacks by Ecuadorian gangs, resulting in a tragic toll of at least 10 lives.
Escaped Gang Leader Sparks Unrest
The immediate trigger for this wave of violence was the escape of Adolfo Macías, the feared leader of the Los Choneros gang, from a prison cell in Guayaquil.
Macías, also known as Fito, is considered one of the most powerful gang leaders in Ecuador, with reported links to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. Serving a 34-year prison sentence, Macías escaped just days before his scheduled transfer to a maximum-security facility.
His escape, reminiscent of a similar incident in 2013, shows the power that incarcerated gang leaders have on the country. President Daniel Noboa responded swiftly, declaring a state of emergency.
News Head Highlights the Crisis
Alina Manrique, the head of news for TC Television, expressed her shock and despair, starkly reflecting the unfolding crisis. “I am still in shock. Everything has collapsed … All I know is that it’s time to leave this country and go very far away,” she lamented.
Manrique’s emotional plea to leave the country is mirrored among Ecuadorians, whose fear and uncertainty have heightened since the incident.
The coordinated attacks extended beyond the TV studio, with incidents reported nationwide. At least seven police officers were kidnapped, a vehicle was set ablaze at a Quito petrol station, and explosive attacks occurred in the provinces of Esmereldas and Los Rios.
Additionally, a jailbreak transpired in Riobamba, and five hospitals were overtaken. The widespread nature of the violence prompted the closure of schools, shops, and public buildings, causing gridlock on the streets as citizens sought safety.
State of Emergency Triggers Threats
President Noboa’s declaration of a state of emergency was met with an unambiguous response from the gangs. In a disturbing video from inside a prison, a guard, with a gun pointed at his head, declared, “You declared war, you will get war.” The gangs issued a stark warning, declaring police, civilians, and soldiers as the spoils of war.
The chaos can be traced back to the escape of Adolfo Macías, leader of Los Choneros, a powerful gang with alleged links to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. Macías, serving a 34-year prison sentence, escaped under suspicious circumstances, revealing the significant power wielded by incarcerated gang leaders.
The extent of the violence that followed the escape has surprised many, raising questions about the coordination among different gangs participating in the wave of attacks.
Ecuador, once considered a relatively peaceful nation, has undergone a nightmarish descent into violence over recent years, primarily attributed to the growing influence of gangs.
The murder rate has soared, with 80% of killings attributed to gangs, marking one of the highest rates globally. Local news reports regularly describe beheadings, public hangings, and police assassinations as rival gangs vie for control of the lucrative drug trade.
Gang Influence and Rising Crime Rates
The rise in gang violence can be attributed to the killing of Los Choneros’ previous leader, Jorge Zambrano, in 2020, sparking a struggle for control over drug-trafficking routes and territory.
At least 400 prison inmates have died since 2021, and cartels from as far afield as Mexico and Albania have sought a piece of the Ecuadorian drug trade, financing local operations.
Central to the chaos has been the export of cocaine – a major source of wealth for Ecuador’s gangs due to increased cultivation in neighbouring Colombia and years of lax policing.
In response to the escalating violence, President Noboa has taken a hard line against gangs, classifying 22 of them as terrorist groups. The situation remains critical despite government measures, including arrests and new maximum-security prisons.
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