Ecuador - Explosion in Guayaquil
Lasso will continue to struggle to deliver on security after an explosion in the country’s largest city.
A large explosion in Guayaquil, Ecuador, killed at least five people and wounded 26. The explosion also caused significant property damage.
The violence in Ecuador has escalated during the past two years, but this bombing escalates the issue to a far more serious level. This is no longer about gang members shooting each other in prison riots or engaging in local turf warfare. This impacted one of Ecuador’s most important cities and was symbolically much larger than any attack seen in recent memory.
And yet, it’s not the first explosion. According to Reuters, "There have been some 145 explosive attacks registered in Ecuador this year, including 72 in Guayaquil, according to government figures.” However, this was the first explosion in a residential area, reports El País.
The area around Guayaquil has become particularly dangerous, as we covered for paying subscribers earlier this year. An article in El Universo this morning includes statistics showing 46% of kidnappings in the entire country occurred in and around Guayaquil over the past six years. Cynthia Viteri, the mayor of Guayaquil wrote a public letter claiming that organized crime violence in the city has included bodies hanging from bridges and public executions.
As Insight Crime reported in May, Ecuador’s gangs have developed more sophisticated and aggressive tactics for controlling territory in the country, including increased use of explosives. Additionally, the port of Guayaquil has become a valuable transit point between Colombian and Mexican DTOs, which has increased the value of trafficking routes and raised the stakes in gang conflicts.
There is a need for long term solutions including better jobs and educational opportunities for youth, both those solutions do very little in the short term to deal with what should be seen as a crisis for the president and those around him. The security situation has worsened significantly since Lasso took office.
The president has authorized an emergency decree that suspends several constitutional rights including the right to public gatherings and allows searches of homes without warrants. Security forces have conducted a number of raids, detaining gang members and seizing weapons and explosives. But it’s not clear if they found the actual suspects in the bombing. This looks more like they are rounding up the usual suspects or using this opportunity to go after gang members who they already suspected of other wrongdoing.
Public approval of Lasso is down for a large number of reasons beyond the high crime situation. Food and fuel price inflation certainly played a larger role in the protests that occurred several months ago. But given that improve security was a key campaign promise of the president, the general rise in homicides as well as this high profile and large scale bombing is hitting him in an area where he was expected to do better.