Daniel Noboa, Ecuador's president
Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa. AFP

Jose Adolfo Macias, the leader of Ecuadorian drug cartel Los Choneros, was reported missing from the prison Sunday, authorities said.

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.

"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.

Fito's escape occurred following President Daniel Noboa's announcement last week that the country needs to impose tighter security measures, noting that he had submitted a list of draft questions for the referendum in a letter to the Constitutional Court.

The 36-year-old president, who took over the office in November, said in a televised message that the court had 20 days to respond to his letter.

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%.

Besides Ecuador, other Latin American countries, including Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela, also have high crime rates.

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