Foreigners land in Guayaquil and a police poster that offers shelter for the transfer from the airport to the accommodation stands out in an arrival hall empty of relatives due to the restrictions of the covid-19. When 2021 started, Ecuador calibrated, like the rest of the world, if it would be a new year of confinements. But now the year ends with the unfortunate balance of being the bloodiest in the last decade and with a record of prison massacres that have frightened Ecuadorians like never before. In the middle of the year, the conservative politician Guillermo Lasso was inaugurated as president, who will drag the objective of appeasing the streets and prisons by 2022.
The latest figures of violent deaths published by the Ministry of Government reached 2,331 intentional homicides with a cutoff on December 14. Among those numbers is Sebastián, an 11-year-old boy who died in the assault on an ice cream parlor in Guayaquil in mid-October. The statistics were not yet counted with another child under the age of five who was killed by a gunshot in the head in a bullet junction on December 15 in a dangerous neighborhood in the same coastal city. Drug retailers are behind the event, according to the police version.
The Government has given the same explanation to the record of murders as well as to the atmosphere of violence within prisons, which has resulted in four major massacres in just one year. If Guayaquil is the hottest city by death toll in the country, with 636 murders, prisons are the second crudest territory, with 329 deaths. Quito follows. The capital has scored 135 victims in one year. A year ago, however, the twelve months closed with 1,286 homicides throughout the country. You have to go back to 2010 to find a death toll like this year, with 2,624.
The first reaction of the authorities was to declare a state of emergency. Both in the streets, to combat crime, and in prisons. In fact, Ecuador will say goodbye to the old year on December 31, 15 days after the last period in which the military was mobilized for citizen control and surveillance was exhausted. The operations section of what the presidency has called the “Ecuador Rescue Plan” accounts for 150,000 operations carried out in two months, in which more than 10,000 people implicated in robberies, murders, illegal possession of weapons or violence have been arrested. sexual. They claim to have dismantled 120 criminal gangs since mid-October, without this having changed the perception of insecurity of a citizenry that is not resigned to living between shocks.
The record year for murders has also been exceptional due to the amount of drugs detected and seized. More than 200 tons have been seized when last year that figure, which was already on an upward trend, reached 120 tons. Only in Guayas, the province that is home to the most conflictive city, the forces of order took 17 tons. In one day, the police found 120 bales of cocaine weighing three tons in a Guayaquil house.
The other source of insecurity that worries Ecuadorians and their leaders has been sexist violence. There are 506 women murdered since the country began to keep a count of femicides in 2014, although that figure published by the Attorney General’s Office implies an under-registration of victims. In 2021 alone, 196 women have lost their lives violently, but 57 are officially being investigated as femicides, according to the open data portal of the Judicial Council. It is 32% more cases than two years ago and 19% higher than last year. In murders of women, also 2021 breaks its own historical ceiling of violence.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.