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Fri. May 17th, 2024

Ecuadoran voters on Sunday overwhelmingly approved measures aimed at tackling drug trafficking and gang-related violence in a national referendum, including the extradition of organized crime bosses to the United States. According to the country’s electoral council, the “yes” vote secured 65 percent of valid ballots, compared to 25 percent for the “no” option.

President Daniel Noboa, who campaigned for the approval of these measures, declared the result a significant “triumph” in the ongoing battle against crime. “We have defended the country, now we will have more tools to fight crime and restore peace to Ecuadoran families,” he said after the release of an exit poll, signaling his commitment to restore order in the nation.

Ecuador has been struggling with a surge in violence, largely driven by drug trafficking and gang activities. The increase in crime has led to the assassination of public officials, including the murder of two mayors this week. The violence on referendum day underlined the urgency of the issue, as Damian Parrales, chief of the El Rodero prison, was gunned down while having lunch with his family. The prison system in Ecuador has become a dangerous battleground for organized crime, with over 460 inmates killed in the last three years.

The approved measures will allow Ecuador’s constitution to be amended, enabling the extradition of criminals to the United States for prosecution. This brings Ecuador in line with other countries in the region, such as Colombia and Mexico, that have sent high-profile crime bosses to the U.S. to stand trial.

Despite a significant deployment of military forces to combat the gangs, the violence has persisted. Along with the assassination of politicians, including presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio last August, citizens are also subjected to other violent crimes. This year’s murder rate reached 43 per 100,000 inhabitants, a significant increase from six per 100,000 in 2018, highlighting the escalating danger faced by Ecuadorans.

President Noboa’s proposed measures aim to bolster military and police powers, tighten gun control, and impose harsher penalties for terrorism and drug trafficking. The approval of these measures in the referendum reflects a public endorsement of the government’s strategy to address the rising tide of violence and instability in the country.

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