Ecuador's Gangster Insurgency
I do a video explainer on the latest episode in Latin America's crime war
Ecuador’s gangster uprising had been raging for several hours with thugs taking control of prisons, kidnapping police officers and blocking streets with burning cars, but it really shot to world attention when 13 gang bangers stormed into a TV station. The thugs, aged 16 to 26, took over a live broadcast of the publicly-owned TC Televisión in Guayaquil on Tuesday afternoon and kept on air for 15 minutes before an engineer pulled the plug. A factor that made the images both surreal and shocking was how the world of street gangs suddenly invaded the world of television, and the presenter feared for his life as the bangers ordered him to tell viewers that they had “bombs” and the police had to back off.
The assailants were cannon fodder for the crime army and were easily arrested, while more serious gunmen were on the streets kidnapping police. Yet the gangsters scored a victory with the raid by delivering a powerful psychological blow to the people of Ecuador watching it live.
It was part of the propaganda war in Ecuador’s gangster uprising. The gangs released videos of police on their knees with knives to their throats. And the security forces responded with their own videos showing how troops subdue and humiliate the hit men. Meanwhile, members of the public added to the mix with cellphone footage of the violent chaos.
This gives us an abundance of video of this latest and terrifying chapter of Latin America’s crime wars. While there have been similar episodes before, such as when the PCC mob rose up in São Paolo in 2006, they have not been as broadly documented.
Using this footage, I made this video explainer here on what’s been happening, what are the roots of the problem and where it’s going. President Daniel Noboa has declared that the country is in an internal armed conflict and the gangs are terrorists that soldiers can treat as enemy combatants. But he might have more trouble than President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador subduing Ecuador’s gangs, which are better armed and well-funded from cocaine riches. Whether the nation regains control will have implications far beyond its borders.
You can also read my story here on the murder of Ecuador’s presidential candidate in August.
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