United States says it is willing to help Ecuador fight gang violence

Washington has strongly condemned the attacks in the Andean country, which have killed at least 10 people in just three days

Soldiers in an armored vehicle patrol Quito (Ecuador), on Tuesday.KAREN TORO (Reuters)
Macarena Vidal Liy

The United States has said it is willing to work with Ecuador to help the country fight violence from criminal gangs and drug traffickers. The message comes after an armed group stormed a television station on Tuesday, and three days of attacks that have left at least a dozen people dead across the country.

“We’re willing to take concrete steps to improve our cooperation with the government of Ecuador as they begin to deal with the violence,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby declared on Wednesday at the daily White House press conference.

Until five years ago, Ecuador was among the safest countries in Latin America, but drug trafficking — especially through the ports of Guayaquil and Manta, and the border region of Esmeraldas — and past governments’ permissive attitude with criminal gangs have upended that situation. Last year, more than 7,800 homicides were recorded in the country.

The spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, John Kirby, during a press conference on January 10.
The spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, John Kirby, during a press conference on January 10.LEAH MILLIS (REUTERS)

Ecuador’s new president, Daniel Noboa, 36 — the son of the country’s largest businessman — came to office with a promise to end the violence. But 50 days after taking office, he faces a serious crisis. In the last three days, organized criminal gangs have killed police and prison officials, taken hostages in penitentiaries, and attempted to assault hospitals and police stations. From the prisons which are used as their base, they have infiltrated and corrupted the state. The violence of the past few days has shone a spotlight on the weakness of state authorities. In response to the spiraling violence, Noboa declared a state of emergency, listed 22 criminal organizations as terrorist groups and deployed the army to the streets.

“We strongly condemn the recent criminal attacks by armed groups in Ecuador against private, public and government institutions,“ U.S. national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, said in a message on X, formerly Twitter. “We are committed to supporting Ecuadorians’ security and prosperity and bolstering cooperation with partners to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice”

In his press conference, Kirby specified that the Biden administration has not yet held talks with Noboa or his government, but is willing to discuss what Ecuador may need to address the crisis.

The senior official did not specify what specific measures Washington could adopt, although he alluded to the possibility of assisting in investigations. He did categorically rule out the possibility of sending troops.

The spokesperson also urged U.S. citizens residing in Ecuador to take greater precautions and remain in contact with the State Department.

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