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Tough security measures approved in Ecuador

Ecuadorians have overwhelmingly approved President Daniel Noboa’s new hardline security measures, with 60-73% of voters giving their assent in a Sunday referendum on proposals designed to combat spiralling gang violence.

After two mayors were killed in the space of a week, Noboa declared the escalating situation an internal conflict and proposed the introduction of a raft of tough new measures, including: military patrols of streets and prisons where gangs have taken control; longer prison sentences for drug traffickers; and easier extradition procedures for convicted criminals.

Despite fears the new measures could result in human rights abuses, Ecuadorians swung behind them to end a rising tide of violence that has been linked to transnational cartels that ship drugs around the world from Ecuador’s ports.

Not long ago, Ecuador was one of the most peaceful countries in Latin America. According to Human Rights Watch, its annual homicide rate soared from 13.7 per 100,000 in 2021 to about 45 per 100,000 in 2023, placing it alongside Venezuela and Honduras as one of the most violence-prone countries in the region. 

For more context and background, read our August 2023 article: Ecuador’s rapid descent from regional haven to gang-ridden cauldron of fear.

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