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Noboa achieves resounding support for tougher security to deal with spiraling violence in Ecuador

In an 11-question referendum, the president fared worse on two economic issues, but received backing to allow the Armed Forces to carry out operations with the police without needing to declare a state of emergency

Noboa Ecuador
The president of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, this Sunday.Mauricio Torres (EFE)

The president of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, achieved a clear victory on Sunday in most of the 11 questions of a referendum he had called to confront the spiral of violence in the country. The president was seeking popular approval for legal reforms in security, judicial and labor matters, and the answer was not positive in all of them: according to an official quick count by the Electoral Council, “yes” won in nine questions and “no” prevailed in two. But the two questions that were rejected focused on economic proposals and were not related to security, which is the main concern of Ecuadorians. All nine security-related proposals received broad backing.

A question that received resounding support involves the militarization of security. Citizens gave their approval to a constitutional amendment that would allow the Armed Forces to carry out operations together with the police without the need for the government to declare a state of emergency. Voters also approved the idea of allowing the extradition of Ecuadorians accused of crimes, as long as it does not entail applying the death penalty or any other inhuman, cruel or degrading penalty.

The referendum was called by Noboa in the midst of a deep security crisis, prolonged energy blackouts and a diplomatic conflict with Mexico over the assault on the Mexican Embassy in Quito to arrest a former vice president who had taken shelter there. Noboa, a 36-year-old businessman who comes from a wealthy banana exporting family, won the presidential election in October, easily defeating the candidate put forward by former president Rafael Correa, leader of the leftist Citizen Revolution and a controversial figure in Ecuador. Noboa, who does not openly espouse any ideology, received a country mired in violence and controlled by gangs.

More than 13 million Ecuadorians were called to vote, but nearly 30% did not turn out, 10 points more than the average for this type of plebiscite. Additionally, voting day was not free of violence. The director of El Rodeo prison, in the province of Manabí, seven hours from Quito, was murdered while he was having lunch with his family at a restaurant. And military personnel were forced to intervene after a new riot broke out at Los Ríos prison, where four inmates were injured.

Noboa followed the vote count from Carondelet Palace in Quito and announced he would be delivering remarks on Monday. On Sunday he posted a photo on Instagram where he appeared surrounded by his family with a short message: “We have defended the country, now we will have the tools to fight crime and restore peace to Ecuadorian families.” He also posted another photograph in X with some of his ministers: “The winning team.”

One of the first people to react to the results of the referendum was former president Correa, who noted that “$62 million have been spent on an unnecessary consultation.” According to Correa, who led the country from 2007 to 2017, “we are facing a guy who has no limits or scruples. He wanted to be like [El Salvador president Nayib] Bukele, who has had great successes but also great mistakes. But he is more like Caligula, the extremely young Roman emperor who lost his mind because he did not know how to handle power.”

If these results are ratified when 100% of the ballots are counted, Noboa’s great challenge will be to get lawmakers to approve the legal reforms that are required to execute the referendum questions that received widespread approval. The legislative branch has become the new opposition front that the president opened up for himself after ordering the assault on the Mexican Embassy to extract former vice president Jorge Glas. That move earned Noboa the disapproval of the Citizen Revolution, which has control of 38% of Congress, as well as from representatives for Construye, led by former minister María Paula Romo, who accuses the president of having pressured a judge to cancel the registration of her political party. This makes it difficult for the government to assemble a new majority.

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