Ecuadorean President Guillermo Laso has declared a nationwide state of emergency and ordered police and military units to be deployed on the streets to counter the wave of drug-related violence.
Laso said over a speech broadcast on state television from this moment on, our armed forces and police will be deployed in the streets because we have declared a state of emergency throughout the country, adding that on the streets of Ecuador, there is only one enemy: the drug cartels,
Laso, who took office last May, expressed regret that in recent years Ecuador has gone from being a drug-smuggling country to a drug-using country.
The right-wing Ecuadorean president's decision to declare a state of emergency came hours after his dismissal of the Minister of Defense, against the backdrop of the recent violence in the country's prisons.
For months, Ecuadorean prisons have witnessed frequent violence between rival gangs fighting for control of the drug trade, according to the authorities.
In February, simultaneous riots in four major prisons in the country killed 79 people, some of whom were beheaded.
At the end of last September, Guayaquil prison in the southwest of the country witnessed gun battles between criminal groups linked to drug trafficking, during which 119 prisoners were killed, some of them dismembered and others burned.
Ecuador's prisons suffer from overcrowding, as the total number of prisoners in the country is currently 39,000, while its maximum capacity is 30,000. 1,500 guards monitor these prisons, while effective control over them requires the presence of four thousand personnel.
Ecuador, located between Peru and Colombia, is the world's largest cocaine-producing country and a major transit point for drug shipments bound for the United States and Europe.
Between the months of last January and August, the Ecuadorean authorities seized about 116 tons of drugs, mostly cocaine, compared to 128 tons in the whole year 2020