Ecuador faces an uncertain future and decades of fighting against drug trafficking

QUITO.- Every morning, Ecuador wake up with the expectation of what will happen in the country. It is a small nation, but very changeable and that in recent weeks – even before – has been experiencing an internal armed conflict, as declared by the president Daniel Noboa after Adolfo Macías, alias “Fito”, leader of the criminal gang Los Choneros, escaped from prison and a group of terrorists attacked a television channel live.

Since then, crime – linked to drug trafficking – focuses on keeping the country in anxiety. It has tried to take over hospitals and sow psycho terror with possible explosive devices (at least 55 cases have been recorded) but the government has known how to act in the face of these threats to protect the population. However, the future of the country looks uncertain, as he comments in an exclusive interview with DIARIO LAS AMERICAS the political analyst and consultant Jacobo García.

“An uncertain future is coming, perhaps with political instability due to all this unusual and unprecedented violence in the life of Ecuador. Once drug trafficking penetrates the life of a country, at all levels, it is difficult to eradicate it. This will take years or decades. We have examples in history, such as Mexico or Colombia,” says the interviewee. “So it is a new ‘normality’ that must be navigated under the uncertainty of a country of weak institutions, of rejection of politics. Therefore, in that context the popularity of Noboa is understood, because it is the little that people cling to in order to see changes and solutions.”

And the president of the South American country, with barely two months in charge, has a citizen acceptance of 80%, according to the results of a study by the pollster Comunicaliza.

According to the data released this Tuesday, January 23, 39.6% rate Noboa ‘very good’; and 40.4% with a ‘good’. Meanwhile, for 6.2% it is bad and for another 3.7% it is very bad, which implies a negative 10%. The other 10% of those consulted prefer not to set a position, as they believe that it is still too early to give an assessment.

“The success was the decree of internal armed conflict, also removing the military and the success was also to contrast with previous efforts. That is, one can evaluate its management in terms of security with technical criteria or whatever we want, but in the eyes of citizens and communication what counts is the before and now, so there is a brutal contrast,” continues the analyst. . “What Noboa is showing is that with small/big symbols, small/big victories can be achieved.”

Capturing Fito would be a triumph

The Government of Ecuador says that it is “getting closer” to capturing Adolfo Macías, alias “Fito”, leader of the Los Choneros criminal gang, whose escape, which occurred at the beginning of this month, has unleashed a fierce wave of violence.

“If they manage to capture it, I think they should insert it into the control story that they are trying to show these weeks. Not only control, but a firm decision to fight against this,” says Jacobo García. “The militarization of the streets or taking away the internet from prisoners are two examples that, beyond showing control of the situation or the fight against drug trafficking, are showing the political will to want to fix the situation.”

Capturing Fito would be a triumph for the government, just as it has been in recent days to take control of the prisons and have seized thousands of tons of cocaine in the country.

“Noboa tries to show with concrete actions that it is a matter of decision and political will. It would be a great example, added to the current story, that there is no impunity here and we are fighting seriously. Being able to say: ‘This man escaped, but we have arrested him here’, that would be a great goal and the president would have the path paved,” adds García.

The president of Ecuador is not alone, the United States has joined the fight that the Noboa administration is having and “is facilitating the delivery of more than 20,000 bulletproof vests and more than a million dollars in critical security and emergency response equipment , including ambulances and defense logistics support vehicles,” listed the administration of President Joe Biden, regarding the work trip of high-level officials to the Latin American nation.

The aid in general also includes the imminent increase in FBI personnel on Ecuadorian soil “to support the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office of Ecuador.”

Popular consultation or thinking about re-election, what should Noboa do?

Before declaring the internal armed conflict due to the violence that plagues Ecuador, President Noboa had sent a proposal to the Constitutional Court to hold a popular consultation. However, analyst Jacobo García considers that it could be a political mistake on the part of the president to continue with that plan, since he believes that for the current administration it would be better to think about the 2025 presidential elections.

“The president is being well evaluated, due to the contrast of where we come from and what he is doing. He is showing more efficiency and political will to solve problems. And very intelligently, he is using the past as an accomplice in what was happening, making it understood that he cannot and will not solve all the problems,” explains García. “By marking that contrast, he gains time and acceptance so that people see small/big victories. Now, this country is the country of events. Today you are up and in two months you could be in pieces, I think that, if you continue like this and manage the agenda well, you have re-election just around the corner because that election is going to be a referendum, more than an election (… .) I see the popular consultation as unnecessary, because that is going to wear people down and lead to electoral fatigue, it is going to waste bullets. The referendum should be the 2025 election, we have to see how he handles that because it could take its toll.”