(Al Jazeera) Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso has declared a state of emergency as the country grapples with a surge in drug-related violence, and ordered the police and military onto the streets.
“Starting immediately, our armed forces and police will be felt with force in the streets because we are decreeing a state of emergency throughout the national territory,” Lasso said in a speech on Monday broadcast by the state channel EcuadorTV.
“In the streets of Ecuador there is only one enemy: drug trafficking,” the right-wing leader declared, adding that “in recent years Ecuador has gone from being a drug trafficking country to one that also consumes drugs”.
Earlier on Monday, Lasso named a new defence minister as the country reels from a substantial prisons crisis.
In recent months, Ecuador has also been faced with deadly violence in its prisons, prompting Lasso to also declare an emergency in the prison system and deploy troops to secure jails and prevent riots.
In September, at least 116 inmates were killed and dozens more injured at the Penitenciaria del Litoral in Guayas province, in the deadliest outbreak of prison violence in the country’s history.
So far in 2021, approximately 200 inmates have died in violence in Ecuador’s prisons, which have become a battleground for thousands of prisoners with ties to powerful Mexican drug cartels.
More than 100 also died in violence last year alone, including many who were beheaded.