Mayra lives in Floresta 1, south of Guayaquil. Getting up or going to bed to the sound of gunshots is no longer “new” to her. She indicates that in the sector the fight between drug gangs has caused so much terror and anxiety that its inhabitants spend locked up in their homes.
He adds that little or nothing has helped that the vast majority of pedestrians in this area have been closed with bars, since the robberies and murders continue. However, Mayra has noticed that criminals, especially hitmen, have left their handguns (pistols and revolvers).
“There is a difference, since now they arrive and shoot with machine guns and what they call rifles. There the bullet falls to anyone, they are not seeing if there are children or the elderly”, indicates. She affirms that she has seen men carrying these types of weapons and questions how they get them, since in the country the possession of weapons is prohibited and those that are sold legally have controls, supposedly strict, and not all can access them.
Deaths from firearms have increased considerably since 2019 in Ecuador. In that year, 644 deaths were registered, but in 2021 the number rose to 880, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC). In 2017, deaths from firearms stood at 481. While the total number of violent deaths stood, until November 2, at 3,705, according to the National Police.
In addition, seizures of weapons from criminals and gangs carried out by the National Police have also increased considerably. Until October 2022, 7,711 weapons were seized. Between 2016 and 2022, the public forces seized 37,441 illegal firearms. But this would only be between 20% or 30% of the total number of illegal weapons that would circulate in the country.
On November 18, the Ecuadorian Armed Forces reported that 2,472 lethal firearms, 162 non-lethal weapons, 1,806 accessories, 40,168 lethal ammunition, 874 non-lethal ammunition and 45,695 kilos of pellets were destroyed.
Although the majority of seized weapons continue to be handcrafted, the percentage of industrial weapons, including long ones, is growing considerably. From January to October of this year, 2,936 weapons of this type were seized. The vast majority of them were manufactured in the United States, according to police data.
The weapons go through Mexico, then through Peru and thus arrive in Ecuador. This is a modus operandi used by criminals, especially drug traffickers, to arm their allied factions throughout South America and thus protect the distribution of drugs.
This was confirmed by the Mexican government in mid-October when it met with representatives of the United States to analyze joint actions to stop arms trafficking from that country. In the Aztec country, 32,000 weapons from the United States were seized in 2021 and homicides by firearms rose to 33,000 that same year.
However, weapons also reach Ecuador across the border with Colombia. In the province of Carchi alone, 44 firearms have been seized so far this year. According to the head of the Carchi Judicial Police, Ricardo Andramunio, these weapons come from Colombia. Then, they are transferred to the Ecuadorian provinces with high rates of violence, for the commission of different crimes.
“Crime is not just a matter of a country, it is an international phenomenon. Ecuador cannot alone (fight against insecurity and arms trafficking) so it has to ask its neighbors (and the United States) for help and this must not only be goodwill but also apply a series of tools that allow international cooperation materialize”, says Juan Enrique Soto, creator of the Behavior Analysis section in the Spanish National Police, who participated in a conference on citizen security held in Ecuador this week.
The expert affirms that Ecuador needs preventive tools such as the analysis of real information on insecurity and criminal groups, early warnings and risk maps. He indicates that “absolute” security and “zero” risk does not exist in any country in the world, but what must be done is to build an environment where people feel protected.
“You must analyze why people commit crimes, their motivation and work on that. It will not be possible to eliminate insecurity 100%, but a manageable and socially comfortable crime rate must be sought. What is true is that we cannot reach the point where the entire population thinks that at some point they will have to (face some violent act) because that would be unbearable. Today Ecuador has very violent rates and urgent measures must be taken, but they cannot stop planning for the long term”, he points out.
Alfredo Rodríguez, a specialist in international relations and security, and a professor at the International University of La Rioja (Unir), affirms that apart from local measures to control insecurity and curb the volume of illegal weapons, he should also ask for greater support from communities such as the european.
This is because, like the United States, Europe is also a large consumer of drugs such as cocaine and this consumption encourages gangs to commit crimes. He agrees with Soto that insecurity is a transnational problem and that everyone should contribute, including the United Nations.
“A confluence of all these forces would help us combat insecurity. We all benefit and of course the local problem is solved”, he points out.
Concern about drugs in Europe, and everything that this criminal universe entails, has been increasing in recent years because drug traffickers have managed to “conquer” this continent.
According to the documentary Why is Belgium now the cocaine capital of Europe?recently published by the British media The Economist, It is detailed that the drug routes are already guarded by the gangs throughout the process to ensure their distribution. For this they spend millions of dollars in the acquisition of arms that are distributed in the different cities of South America. Ecuador is a country that has become one of the “export” points for cocaine that reaches Belgium and is then distributed on this continent. (YO)