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Ecuador Declares a State of Emergency in Response to Drug Cartel Rampage

Following yesterday’s armed attack on a Guayaquil, Ecuador public TV station by gun-wielding members of a drug gang, President Daniel Noboa declared a state of “internal armed conflict” for 60 days, granting the police and armed forces special powers to hunt down the drug cartels responsible for the violence and assassinations that have grown dramatically in the country over the past few years. The assault on the TC television studio, which was in the middle of a live broadcast, coincided with cartel attacks in other parts of the country over the preceding 24 hours, including 30 car explosions, the kidnapping of 7 police officers, and 30 prison guards taken hostage by drug cartels that control the prisons.

Following a meeting of the Joint Command of the armed forces and the State Security Council, the head of the Joint Command Adm. Jaime Vela declared that every identified terrorist group, of which there are 22, has now become a “military objective.” There will be a curfew from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am, and police will have the authority to break up any gatherings or enter private homes, no questions asked. As reported by El Universo today, President Noboa said that “when we are in a state of conflict, a state of war, other laws apply. Today we are going to fight [the terrorists].” The cartels went on a rampage, he added, because they heard that the President was going to transfer their leaders and put them in isolation.

Writing on X, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan condemned the attacks “against public, private and government institutions” and said the Biden administration is committed “to cooperating with partners to bring the perpetrators to justice.” Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols also posted on X that he is extremely worried about the violence and kidnappings in Ecuador and “we are ready to provide assistance to the Ecuadorian government and will stay in close contact with President Noboa’s team regarding our support.”

At a time when the U.S. Southern Command is pressuring countries in South America to open the door to a permanent U.S. military base—purportedly to keep China out of the area—and both the U.S. and the U.K. are trying to blow up the Guyana-Venezuela border conflict, it’s appropriate to ask what kind of “assistance” Sullivan and Nichols are proposing. Ecuadorian ex-President Rafael Correa, who governed from 2007 to 2017, kicked the U.S. out of the Manta military base on the Pacific Coast. But on Sept. 27 of last year, Ecuador’s then-President Guillermo Lasso, a neoliberal banker, very quietly signed two agreements with the State Department, witnessed by Defense Department and Homeland Security personnel, to allow U.S. military assets to step up sea patrols along Ecuador’s coast and operate inside that country, purportedly to carry out “regional anti-drug deployments.” To get around the Constitutional prohibition on deployment of foreign troops in the country, then Foreign Minister Gustavo Manrique explained that the U.S. troops wouldn’t be permanently based in the country but would only come in “for short periods of time, carry out operations and leave.”

The always astute Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a statement today on Ecuador, expressing solidarity with the government and people and condemning the attacks by criminal groups that are attempting “to disrupt and destabilize” the nation. She added, however, that “it is our expectation that the Ecuadorian authorities will put an end to the rampage caused by these criminal elements, and do so independently, without any outside interference, by reasserting control and restoring calm and order.”