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Ecuador: ten keys to the state of exception to combat drug trafficking

Ecuador: ten keys to the state of exception to combat drug trafficking

Ecuador: ten keys to the state of exception to combat drug trafficking

The Exception status decreed on Monday by President Guillermo Lasso, on the grounds of high levels of internal insecurity, also comes at a time of high tension and political uncertainty in Ecuador.

Fueled by the gradual increase in fuel prices and by the rejection of the reforms proposed by the Executive, the uncertainty generates the fear of some social and union groups that the decree will try to limit the rights of political expression and demonstration.

Or to divert attention from the political pulse between the Legislature and the Executive by blocking some reforms, or even the investigation into the appearance of Lasso in the Pandora Papers.

The constitutionalist José Chalco and the political consultant Wendy Reyes, analyze for Efe the keys to the decision and its legal, political and social repercussions.

1. STRENGTHENING OF ORGANIZED CRIME

Ecuador suffers this last year a considerable increase in crime, with homicides and assaults that cause great concern among the population. According to the Police, the rate of intentional deaths has grown from 5.81 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016, to 10.62 this 2021. And in absolute numbers, from 960 to 1,885 so far this year, of which 1,112 are cataloged as “criminal violence”.

2. INFLUENCE OF DRUG TRAFFICKING

The authorities link this increase to organized crime and, according to Lasso, “more than 70% of violent deaths” in the province of Guayas (southwest), the most punished, “are linked to drug trafficking.” They establish the same link to explain the unprecedented prison crisis that the country is experiencing, with disputes between the main gangs that leave this year a balance of more than 250 murdered inmates.

In addition, the president explained that, although Ecuador was classified until now as a transit country for drugs, coming from Colombia and Peru, there has also been an increase in consumption.

3. WHY NOW?

The decree, and especially its pompous announcement by speech to the nation, has surprised even though the situation is well known to all. Weeks ago the Government even deployed military and police forces in the Guayaquil area to stop the phenomenon.

It is to be believed that the highest number of murders in the last period, added to a recent massacre of 118 inmates in a Guayaquil jail, have catalyzed the presidential decision, as well as the death on Sunday of an 11-year-old boy in a shooting between criminals and police during an assault in Guayaquil.

4. NATIONAL BUT TARGETED EXCEPTION STATE

In this context, the state of exception has been decreed at the national level, in order, among other reasons, to allow the Armed Forces to take part in a priori police activities. For the moment, the activity has been restricted to the provinces of El Oro, Guayas, Santa Elena, Manabí, Los Ríos, Esmeraldas, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Pichincha and Sucumbíos (bordering Colombia).

5. DURATION OF THE STATE OF EXCEPTION

The decree has in principle a duration of just sixty days, which for Reyes is insufficient time to resolve the situation in all its security, legal, economic and social projections. For this reason, he advocates the establishment of a public policy that begins to solve the entire problem.

6. POSSIBLE UNCONSTITUTIONALITY

For his part, Chalco specifies that “a state of national exception” with the application of measures “only in certain provinces” can “cause setbacks when the Constitutional Court rules,” since the document should have specific limits regarding measures and conformity. of these with the established territory.

7. DEFENSE OF THE ARMED FORCES AND POLICE

Another possibly problematic angle of the decree is Lasso’s intention to pass through the National Assembly a draft Law on “Defense of the Duty of the Public Force” to legally protect agents who are “unjustifiably” sued while they were in compliance. of your mission.

It could be the case, for example, of the policeman who apparently killed the minor from Guayaquil by mistake, whom the family intends to denounce for manslaughter.

8.- NO MOBILITY RESTRICTIONS

The new regime does not include restrictions of a civil or political nature such as the right to mobilization, assembly or other freedoms. “There is no suspension of rights,” says the constitutionalist.

The last time that Ecuador experienced a state of exception was in 2020, in that case, for health reasons due to the covid, which the then president, Lenín Moreno, tried to renew twice and the last time was blocked by the Constitutional Court. In that case, restrictions on mobility and concentration were included to curb infections.

9. SOCIAL MOBILIZATIONS and REJECTION SAMPLES

The state of exception coincides with a period of social protests on which, in principle, it should have no impact. However, Reyes believes that putting the military on the streets means, in some way, “demobilizing the citizens.” Some leaders of social and union movements have rejected the decree out of fear that the Armed Forces will be used in the demonstrations.

10. PROJECTIONS IN OTHER POLICIES

Although the decree focuses on security issues, the validity of the state of emergency may open possibilities for the Executive in other policies, for example – Reyes warns – when presenting two bills of economic urgency at the same time, when normally only one could.

Lasso announced last week that his bill “Creating Opportunities would be divided into three, and he should send the first of them to the National Assembly in the next few days.

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