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Latam Brief: Seven assassination suspects dead in Ecuador (October 9, 2023)

Ecuadorian authorities present the six men detained for the murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. On Friday they were murdered in a Guayaquil prison. GOBIERNO DE ECUADOR
Ecuadorian authorities present the six men detained for the murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. On Friday they were murdered in a Guayaquil prison. (Gobierno de Ecuador )

Latin America Daily Briefing

Six Colombian men detained in Ecuador in relation to the August assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio were killed in prison on Friday. El País reports they were hanged, days after the United States offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the masterminds behind Villavicencio’s murder and a week ahead of a presidential runoff vote.

Hours later, on Saturday morning, officials said they found a seventh suspect dead in a prison near the capital of Quito, reports the Washington Post.

“The prison killings have added to the sense that the nation is in thrall to a narco-trafficking industry with ties to the government,” reports the New York Times.

Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced on Saturday a shake up of the high ranks of the security forces, removing the prisons director and the head of the police investigations unit.

Ecuador’s attorney general’s office also launched an investigation into the country’s prisons agency, the office said earlier on Saturday. Prosecutors said they initiated the investigation because the agency did not carry out a pending order to transfer for security reasons the six inmates killed at the Litoral Penitentiary on Friday, reports Reuters.

The men were being held in cellblock 7 of the Litoral penitentiary in Guayaquil, which was under the control of the powerful gang called Los Lobos, according the Washington Post.

The suspected gunman in Villavicencio’s murder was killed by police, but the six Colombians were detained shortly after and were believed to have links to organized crime groups. Last month, seven additional people — all Ecuadorian citizens — were arrested in connection with the killing, reports the Washington Post.


  • Protests in Guatemala demanding the resignation of attorney general Consuelo Porras have multiplied — as of Sunday there were 86 blockades by groups defending president-elect Bernardo Arévalo in light of judicial efforts aimed at derailing his victory. The protests have been ongoing for eight days, reports Soy 502.

  • The blocks have caused discontent in the business and union sectors, reports Prensa Libre.

  • The Organization of American States will send a mission to mediate between Guatemalan officials and street protesters seeking an orderly transfer to power to Arévalo, reports Reuters.


  • A bus carrying dozens of mostly Venezuelan migrants crashed in southern Mexico on Friday, killing 18 people and injuring 29 others, reports the New York Times.

  • U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent migration moves are barely distinguishable from those of former president Donald Trump, according to critics. (Guardian)

  • U.S. lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the U.S. was “contributing to the destabilization that drives migration” with measures such as sanctions on Venezuela and an administration decision to resume deportation flights to the South American country. (Guardian)

  • WOLA’s Adam Isacson highlights stories related to the US-Mexico border and human rights at the Beyond the Wall weekly update, explaining, “Preliminary data indicates that migration increased at the U.S.-Mexico border in September for the third consecutive month,” and that “Deaths of migrants in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector more than doubled from 2022 to 2023.” (Via Americas Migration Brief.)

  • Mexico City lacks shelter space for migrants and asylum seekers, reports Pie de Página, noting that because of US-driven enforcement efforts, “migrants stay longer in Mexico City, and it is becoming a destination place.” (Via Americas Migration Brief.)

  • Weather-related disasters in the region “caused 2.3 million internal displacements of children over a six–year period,” says UNICEF, noting Cuba and Honduras recorded the highest figures. (Via Americas Migration Brief.)


  • More than half of Chileans, 54% of respondents plan on voting against the new constitution proposal drafted by a conservative-led commission, according to pollster Cadem. High rejection rates were attributed to disapproval of the proposed changes, including a bid to further tighten abortion restrictions, reports Reuters.

  • Chile’s government has opened up a new front in the fight against drug trafficking by targeting “narco” mausoleums and funerals — part of efforts to “clamp down on what it sees as the glorification of crime by taking back public spaces and increasing social investment,” reports InSight Crime.


  • Argentina’s presidential candidates held a second debate last night, ahead of the Oct. 22 election. All the candidates except leftist Myriam Bregman strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Israel over the weekend. (Buenos Aires Times)

  • Argentina’s business leaders are strongly against full dollarization of the economy, one of frontrunner libertarian Javier Milei’s key campaign promises, according to 125 business people Reuters spoke to.

  • “Dollarizing the economy is like locking oneself in handcuffs and then throwing away the key. It’s an act of desperation when nothing else works,” writes Peter Coy in the New York Times.

  • It’s complicated: If Argentina’s multiple exchange rates are too much for your finance PhD, the Buenos Aires Herald has a handy guide.


  • Colombian Indigenous leaders and the communities they represent are targets of armed groups illegally plundering the Amazon, reports the Guardian.

Regional Relations

  • A cabinet reshuffle in Kenya demoted foreign minister Alfred Mutua as controversy rages in Kenya about a planned multinational force to Haiti defended by Mutua, reports the Miami Herald.


  • An extreme drought sweeping across Brazil’s Amazon, with historically low water levels have affected hundreds of thousands of people and wildlife, reports the Associated Press.


  • Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua is one of the fastest-growing security threats in South America, and has established some of the most far-reaching and sophisticated migrant smuggling and sex trafficking networks seen in the region. But the seizure of its homebase, Tocorón prison, by Venezuelan authorities in September 2023 directly attacked the nerve center of this network, reports InSight Crime.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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