Fito "Macías"
Macías is one of Ecuador's main drug lords AFP

The wife and three children of "Fito" Macías, one of Ecuador's main drug lords were apprehended in Argentina and deported back to their country, local outlets reported on Friday.

The family was living in a gated community in the Mediterranean province of Córdoba. They were expelled and taken to Quito in an Argentine military plane. "The expulsion is motivated by a report from law enforcement investigating drug-trafficking crimes and where 'Fito's' family is mentioned. The report was sent to the migrations office which decided to cancel their tourists' visa," an official investigating the case told Infobae.

The outlet reported that Macías' family arrived in Argentina in early January and proceeded to buy a large house in the gated community. Two weeks later they are being taken to Ecuador.

Macías is at the center of Ecuador's escalating security crisis, following his escape from prison at a moment in which he was set to be transferred to a high-security facility.

Fito, according to information from the Ecuadorian government, is the leader of the criminal group Los Choneros, one of the largest drug cartels in the country. Security and organized crime experts state that Los Choneros are associated with the Sinaloa Cartel.

Macías' escape led president Daniel Noboa to declare the state of emergency, but about a week later a series of violent attacks from gangs to a TV station, a university and different prisons escalated into what the president described an "internal armed conflict."

Inmates rioted in jails where gangs wield outsize control, taking prison guards and administrative workers hostage, while on the streets a wave of violence left 19 people dead.

In response, Noboa deployed over 22,000 security forces to the streets, who have frisked and stripped down young men in search of the tattoos identifying them as a member of one of the gangs.

Daniel Noboa, Ecuador's president
Ecuador's new President Daniel Noboa delivers his first speech after taking office. AFP

Once a bastion of peace situated between major cocaine producers, Ecuador has been plunged into crisis after years of expansion by the transnational cartels that use its ports to ship the drug to the United States and Europe. 2023 ended as the most violent year in Ecuador's history, with over 7,600 homicides compared to 2019's 1,187.

Headed by violence-prone leaders such as Fito and his henchmen, Los Choneros became a dominant group in Ecuador, establishing ties to mafias from Colombia and Mexico, mainly to provide safe transportation for cocaine shipments.

With Fito on the run from justice, Ecuador could be at risk of a further escalation of violence, as the capo has called on Los Choneros to commit criminal acts across the country pressuring the government to negotiate a halt to the persecution against him.

So far, Noboa pledged no negotiations will be held.

"We will not negotiate with terrorists nor rest until we return peace to all Ecuadorans," the president said. It is unclear whether Ecuadorian authorities will use "Fito's" family as a bargaining chip in the ongoing feud.

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