QUITO, ECUADOR — Ecuadorian police arrested 68 people attempting to seize control of a hospital in the violence-ridden southwest, amid an ongoing conflict between drug gangs and security forces.
“We neutralized alleged terrorists who were trying to take over the facilities of a hospital in Yaguachi, Guayas,” police announced on X.
The arrested individuals were suspected of attempting to free a fellow member who had been hospitalized with injuries a few hours before. Authorities confiscated firearms and narcotics during the operation.
Law enforcement officials conducted a raid on a “rehabilitation center,” which served as both a gang command center and a brothel. Several purported gang members were discovered hiding at the location.
Ecuadorian authorities have been shutting down numerous such centers, characterized as clandestine hospitals operated by gangs, lacking proper facilities for patient care.
Once regarded as a haven of tranquility in Latin America, Ecuador has entered a state of crisis due to the prolonged influence of transnational cartels using its ports for drug shipments to the United States and Europe.
Following a surge in violence triggered by the prison escape of Adolfo Macias, a drug kingpin known as “Fito,” President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency and announced a “war” against gangs in the country.
In response to the government’s actions, drug cartels reacted promptly, issuing threats to execute civilians and security forces and holding dozens of police and prison officials hostage, though they were later released.
Ecuador, with a population of 17 million, is home to around 20 criminal groups, and their combined membership is estimated to surpass 20,000.
Last Wednesday, a prosecutor investigating an armed gang’s attack on a television station during a broadcast was fatally shot in the port city of Guayaquil. The killed prosecutor, Cesar Suarez, was also reportedly probing the family members of the fugitive “Fito,” who were detained in Argentina on Friday and subsequently repatriated.
Underlining the issue of drug trade in the area, both Colombia and Ecuador revealed over the weekend that they had seized two semi-submersible vessels carrying substantial drug shipments in their respective Pacific waters.