Just weeks ahead of Ecuador’s early general elections, the country is facing an unprecedented crisis due to a spike in violence and allegations of deals made between the government and criminal groups. Videos have circulated on social media depicting students ducking for cover in schools amid gunfire between drug trafficking gangs in Esmeraldas, assassination attempts against public officials, and public messages from heavily armed gang leaders announcing peace agreements.
The developments have ignited deep concern across the country and deepened the ongoing political crisis, made acutely worse when President Guillermo Lasso activated the cross-death measure on May 17, which dissolved the country’s National Assembly, and called for early general elections.
Heavy criticisms have been leveled at the government of Lasso amidst rising insecurity across the country. Luisa González, the presidential candidate for the leftist Citizen Revolution Movement party, stated: “That it is the leaders of criminal gangs who are speaking out only means one thing: the gangs are in control of the country and not the president of the Republic.”
Following the eruption of violence and the declaration of a state of emergency, criminal gangs operating in Ecuador announced through videos released on social media that they had reached an agreement on a period of peace in the country. They alluded to the fact that the peace pact had also been signed with the national government and the police. Meanwhile, the right-wing government of incumbent President Guillermo Lasso denied any type of agreement with criminal gangs.