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Latam Brief: Ecuador declares state of emergency

Noboa announces the state of emergency [President of Ecuador/Handout via AFP]
Noboa announces the state of emergency [President of Ecuador/Handout via AFP]

Latin America Daily Briefing

Ecuadorean President Daniel Noboa declared a 60-day state of emergency yesterday, after one of the country’s most notorious criminals escaped from prison. The measure suspends citizen’s rights, imposes a nightly curfew, and permits authorities to mobilize the military internally.

Thousands of soldiers and police participated in a manhunt for Adolfo Macías, alias Fito, the convicted leader of the powerful drug gang Los Choneros, who disappeared from a Guayaquil prison on Sunday, just before he was due to be transferred to a maximum security facility.

Prison guards were overpowered and taken hostage amid riots at prisons across the country. Videos shared on social media showed prison wardens apparently held hostage by masked knife-wielding gang members, reports the Guardian.

Noboa said yesterday he had authorized security forces to retake control of Ecuador’s restive prison system, which he said, “has been lost in recent years,” reports CNN.

“The state of emergency and surrounding events are among the first big security tests for Noboa,” who took office in November in the midst of violence that made security one of the principal campaign issues, reports Reuters.

“Los Choneros is one of the Ecuadorian gangs authorities consider responsible for a spike in violence that reached a new level last year with the assassination of the presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio,” reports the Associated Press. “The gang has links with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, according to authorities.”

Macías “often defies the authorities, most recently by releasing a “narcocorrido”, a slick music video glorifying his criminal exploits, which was partly recorded inside the jail,” reports the BBC.

“This is his second prison escape – the last was in 2013 when he was recaptured after three months,” reports Al Jazeera.

More Ecuador

  • Noboa’s administration will ask citizens to approve extradition of citizens accused of crimes in other countries, an expansion of topics the government announced for a proposed referendum focused on strengthening Ecuador’s crime-fighting capacity, reports Reuters.

  • Noboa will also seek ”to broaden the scope of his right to submit fast-track legislation beyond economic issues and to allow Ecuadorians to be hired to work on an hourly basis as part of temporary contracts,” reports Bloomberg.


  • Feminist activists in Argentina, particularly journalists, are confronting a toxic wave of threats in the wake of right-wing Javier Milei’s presidential victory last year. Argentina’s feminist movement, which has spurred regional struggles against gender violence and for reproductive rights, has been specifically targeted by Milei’s libertarian followers, reports the Guardian.

  • “Young men respond to Milei because he represents them: broken, unbalanced, with the right to instill fear,” feminist journalist Luciana Peker, who has gone into exile in response to threats against her, told the Guardian. “My fear does what it always does to women, it shuts me up. Women’s freedom recedes with the advance of machismo – men who flee from women, the men Milei represents, the macho-sphere.”

  • An Argentine judge admitted two new challenges to Milei’s so-called “mega” presidential decree, yesterday, lifting summer recess for treatment of the issue which he said could affect rights. (Corta)

  • Argentina’s House of Deputies will start discussions on Milei’s “omnibus” bill


  • Brazilian political leaders celebrated their countries democratic resilience yesterday in a ceremony marking a year since destructive riots against government buildings in the country’s capital, reports the Guardian. “There is no forgiveness for those who attack democracy,” said President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. (See yesterday’s post.)

  • The attack has been much compared to the Jan. 6 riots in the U.S. capital in 2021. But the aftermath in each country has been nearly diametrically opposite. While a number of factors have come into play, experts say one is key: Leaders on Brazil’s right “publicly, clearly, unambiguously accepted the results of the election and did exactly what democratic politicians are supposed to do,” political scientist Steven Levitsky told the New York Times.


  • Guatemalan president-elect Bernardo Arévalo announced his cabinet picks ahead taking office on Sunday. He announced the country’s first gender balanced cabinet and included people external to his Seed Movement party for key posts, reports the Associated Press.

  • Guatemala has developed into an extortion hotspot for migrants, who are targeted with pay-for-passage schemes by officials and security forces, reports Al Jazeera.

  • “Guatemala is often cited as the worst-case scenario for what can go wrong when adoptions are commercialized and children are sent from poorer countries to wealthier ones,” reports the Guardian in a piece on the country’s “baby brokers.”

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

January 9, 2024

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