Violence escalates at the start of the election campaign in Ecuador: the assassination of the mayor of a major drug-trafficking port

A fisherman returning from his day at La Poza Beach, in the city of Malta, which is home to one of Ecuador’s major ports.Eduardo Leal (Bloomberg)

Violence continues to hit Ecuador hard. On Sunday, July 23, the mayor of Manta, on the Ecuadorian coast, was assassinated. one of the main ports of the country, 400 km from Quito. Agustín Intriago, 38, was shot while touring some sanitation works in the 15th of September neighborhood. He was shot six times, mostly in the chest. The attack also injured four people and killed a young woman, Ariana Chancay, an athlete who approached the mayor asking for help in purchasing uniforms for the neighborhood’s women’s soccer team, Las Dragonas.

Mayor Intriago is very popular. This was his second term in office, which he won in the February election with 61% of the vote. A few hours after the crime occurred, the police managed to arrest a person who may have links to the premeditated murder, and he is being investigated. The news shocked the country into a very tense atmosphere The insecurity that haunts all Ecuadoreans Due to an increase in crimes such as thefts, kidnappings, extortion, and violent deaths, all this is in the midst of An atypical election campaign.

The place where the mayor was assassinated is no less important. Manta is a city of just over 250,000 residents, located in Manabi Province. It is a port open to the Pacific Ocean, very deep, and one of the exit doors for drugs moving from Colombia to abroad. Until 2009 it served as an enclave for the military base of the United States, which carried out air and sea surveillance, but as soon as Rafael Correa came to power, the prohibition of military bases in the territory was included in the constitution and the agreement was dissolved.

“Manta is an important area for transporting drugs abroad,” explains security analyst Mario Pazminho. “It has always been.” At the end of the 1990s, the entire Manabi coast was used for human trafficking, migrants who traveled hidden in the engines of fishing boats or on boats to Colombia or Central America in their attempt to reach the United States. When immigrants stopped traveling en masse, the entire structure that had been set up for human trafficking for the export of cocaine was changed.

A few years later, in 2012, one of the first evidences of Ecuador’s links with sinaloa mexican cartel, When the former governor of Manabi, Cesar Fernandez, was found with 115 kilograms of cocaine that was to be sent to Mexico under the seal of that criminal group. The authorities have information on at least two other cartels that will operate in Ecuador, Jalisco Nueva Generation and the Albanian Mafia.

Since the epidemic, the destruction of drugs that cannot be shipped has led to a struggle for control of the region between several local criminal gangs working in the logistics operations of the Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación cartels, and at the moment “a surplus of 700 tons of cocaine is entering the country, and one of the ports through which most of the drugs leave is Manta”.

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The crime against the mayor of Manta occurred on a particularly violent weekend in Ecuador. A few hours before the killing of Intriago, the government raised the alert in all the country’s prisons for the possibility of riots. It all began on Saturday afternoon when bombs and gunshots were heard in the Litoral prison in Guayaquil.

The information released by the authorities of the Department of Attention to Persons Deprived of Liberty was scant, limited to reporting that they had “maintained control of the prison,” but the press releases did not contradict the nearly 24-hour shooting, the column of smoke rising from the prison, and the videos of decapitated and burned corpses. Insisting on the information, the National Security Agency reported in a document on Sunday afternoon that six prisoners had been killed and 11 injured. In addition, it indicated that prison security personnel were “held by groups of criminal organizations” in four prisons in the country, without elaborating. They have only reported that they are “in good shape” and that prisoners in 10 other prisons are on hunger strike.

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