Novoa faces an earthquake in Ecuador: mayors murdered, half the country without electricity and a “state of exception”

2024-04-20 02:12:11

Ecuador is experiencing critical hours: On the eve of this Sunday’s crucial referendum on reforms to confront organized crime, two mayors were murdered, and power outages are multiplying throughout the country, which led to the government of the president Daniel Novoa to decree the “Exception status”.

This Friday Jorge Maldonado, mayor of Portovelo, was murdered and 48 hours earlier it had been José Sánchez, municipal head of Camilo Ponce Enríquez, who was shot to death. Both mining towns are in the south of the country.

crimes happen in the midst of an energy debacle due to a serious drought since Marchwhich emptied the reservoirs to levels rarely seen and forces prolonged blackouts of up to 13 hours.

Authoritarians don’t like this

The practice of professional and critical journalism is a fundamental pillar of democracy. That is why it bothers those who believe they are the owners of the truth.

Noboa ordered a state of emergency this Friday due to the certainty that there could be “terrorist attacks” to the already weak infrastructure for the supply of electricity, although the decree clarifies that it does not restrict citizen rights.

The measure covers the entire national territory and is installed by “serious internal commotion and public calamity” and to “guarantee the continuity of energy service”, indicated the government headed by the banana businessman.

Power outages reach up to 13 hours a day in Ecuador. (AFP PHOTO)

Noboa had denounced days ago that there was “sabotage” that aggravated the power outages, although without specifying who was responsible. The measure of the state of exception is given on the eve of a referendum and a popular consultation with which the president, 36 years old, intends to toughen its war against organized crime.

Among the main proposals of the Executive is allow the extradition of Ecuadorians related to organized crime, increase penalties for drug trafficking and terrorism and allow public forces to use weapons seized in operations.

According to the government, energy rationing will be less severe on Saturday and will return to normal on Sunday.

Dramatic political violence

Since 2023, at least a dozen politicians have been murdered in Ecuador. The most famous case was that of the presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, shot in August by Colombian hitmen while leaving a campaign event in Quito ahead of the early elections that same year.

Police said Maldonado was murdered “while engaged in personal activities” in a neighborhood of Portovelo, a town located in the coastal province of El Oro (southwest and border with Peru). In images broadcast in press chats, the official is seen lying on a sidewalk in a pool of blood.

Prosecutors, journalists and police officers are also among the fatal victims of criminal organizations with links to cartels in Mexico and Colombia, as well as the Albanian mafia.

In March, Brigitte García, mayor of the coastal San Vicente (west) and the youngest (at 27 years old) municipal authority elected in the 2023 elections, was murdered.

Added to the political violence and the energy crisis is a diplomatic mess. The government is dealing with the breakdown of relations with Mexico, after that country sued it before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for attacking its embassy in Quito.

Strategic point for drug trafficking

Ecuador, located between Colombia and Peru – the world’s largest producers of cocaine -, years ago ceased to be an island of peace and became a strategic point for the operations of gangs linked to drug trafficking, which impose a regime of terror. Last year, the homicide rate reached a record 43 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Faced with the onslaught of drug trafficking, which in January left around twenty dead, Noboa declared the nation in internal armed conflict that month and mobilized the Armed Forces with the order to neutralize some 20 gangs, branded as “terrorists” and “belligerents.” “.

“The wave of violence that has claimed the lives of two Ecuadorian mayors in less than a week is an alarm signal that we cannot ignore,” said the Association of Ecuadorian Municipalities (AME) in a statement.

The crimes are “indicative of a serious security crisis that puts the lives of all municipal leaders at risk,” he added.


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