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Ecuador Declares Internal Armed Conflict Amidst Escalating Violence

In a dramatic turn of events, Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa has officially declared an “internal armed conflict” in the nation, directing security forces to “neutralize” criminal groups responsible for spreading extreme violence. The announcement follows a series of violent incidents, including a takeover of a live television broadcast and armed individuals at a hospital and a university in Guayaquil.

The shocking takeover of a Guayaquil-based network’s live broadcast unfolded on Tuesday when hooded and armed men stormed the studio, forcing TC Television staff onto the floor. The assailants sought to convey a message, according to anchor Jorge Rendon, who described the attack as “extremely violent.” Although shots were fired, Ecuadorian police later confirmed the arrest of all armed individuals, with no casualties reported among the network’s staff and hostages.

In response to escalating violence, President Noboa declared a nationwide state of emergency on Monday, initially prompted by the escape of high-profile gang leader Adolfo “Fito” Macias from a prison in Guayaquil. The state of emergency, effective for 60 days, includes a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. to maintain public order. Since its declaration, at least seven police agents have been kidnapped in various cities.

Ecuador faces a severe security crisis marked by explosions, police kidnappings, and prison disturbances. Criminal organizations, vying for control of drug trafficking routes, have engaged in brutal and public displays of violence. The situation poses a significant challenge for President Noboa, who had promised to address rising crime during his electoral campaign.

The violence has extended beyond Guayaquil, with incidents reported in different cities, including kidnappings with explosive devices and arson attacks. Neighboring Peru has announced plans to declare an emergency along its northern border in response to the unrest, reinforcing security with additional police personnel.

Inside Ecuadorian prisons, chaos continues to reign, with at least six incidents reported, including disturbances and the retention of penitentiary agents. Another alleged gang leader, Fabricio Colon Pico, recently escaped from a prison in Riobamba along with 38 other inmates.

In the midst of the turmoil, Ecuador’s National Assembly is convening an emergency meeting to formulate concrete actions addressing the national crisis. The search for Adolfo “Fito” Macias intensifies, with over 3,000 police officers and armed forces deployed to locate him.

Macias, leader of the notorious gang Los Choneros, had been linked to maritime drug trafficking with ties to Mexican and Colombian cartels. The late presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio had previously received threats from Macias for campaigning against gang violence.

As Ecuador grapples with the deepening crisis, the nation awaits further developments and government actions to restore stability.