La Hora Ecuador
An image of the events La Hora Ecuador

Gang violence levels in Ecuador continued to increase on Tuesday, after a group of armed people took over a live TV broadcast, rounding up journalists and threatening them with explosives.

"This is so you know not to mess with gangs," said one of the members, all of whom had their faces covered. An anchor was later forced to ask police in the building to leave. The feed is not active anymore, but local outlets reported that a journalist was injured.

Ecuadorian police said that it was evacuating workers from the TV station and was working to "reestablish order." Not long after authorities published images of band members neutralized, their hands tied on the floor.

The event is taking place shortly after newly-inaugurated Ecuadorian president, Daniel Noboa, declared the state of emergency following the escape of one of the country's most notorious criminals from prison. The measure suspends citizen's rights, imposes a nightly curfew, and permits authorities to mobilize the military internally.

Noboa had also announced last week that the country needed to impose tighter security measures, noting that he had submitted a list of draft questions for a referendum in a letter to the Constitutional Court.

On January 7, Jose Adolfo Macias, the leader of Ecuadorian drug cartel Los Choneros, was reported missing from the prison.

General Cesar Zapata, the national commander of police, said at a press conference that the armed forces of Ecuador already launched an operation to find the country's most-wanted prisoner, who escaped the Guayaquil prison, Reuters reported.

Though he did not mention the prisoner by name, the prosecutor's office said it would investigate "the alleged escape" of Macias, alias "Fito," who was sentenced to 34 years of prison in 2011 for several crimes, including drug trafficking and murder.

The Los Choneros drug cartel has been linked to extortion, murder and drug trafficking, alongside controlling the main prisons of Ecuador. He escaped right before being transferred to a higher security prison.

"We're grateful for the courage and commitment of the law enforcement forces, who, in an operation involving more than 3,000 people, have intervened in the prison in search of the most-wanted prisoner," presidential spokesman Roberto Izurieta said at the press conference.

Rival gangs often clash with each other, as Ecuador's prisons are overcrowded. According to official numbers, more than 400 inmates died in the last three years.

The Latin American country has witnessed a surge in violence and crime in the last couple of years. According to a report, Ecuador's crime rate was 5.84% in 2017, which rose to 6.84% in 2018. It doubled in 2020 to 14.02%.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.