Ecuador: Gang violence will not prevail, bishops say — By: Catholic News Agency

Police officers stand guard outside the City Hall building in Quito on Jan. 10, 2024, as Ecuador remains in a state of emergency following the escape from prison of a dangerous narco boss. / Credit: STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

ACI Prensa Staff, Jan 10, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The bishops of Ecuador published a statement titled “Violence will not prevail” following recent disturbances that occurred in the country including the takeover of a television station in the city of Guayaquil in the midst of a state of emergency that began on Jan. 8.

In a Jan. 9 message addressed “to all men and women of goodwill living in Ecuador,” the bishops said that “organized crime is sowing, in the day to day of our lives, chaos and despair.”

“Violence, wherever it comes from, must find us united, looking ahead, and with the strength necessary for Ecuador to be what it has always been, a place of peace, of work, of fraternity.”

The prelates encouraged Ecuadorans not to fall “either into the fruitless panic that the game played by the violent [perpetrators] creates by giving credence to any alarmist image shared on social media, nor into the naivete of standing idly by believing that this fight is only for those who govern us.”

“Any activity contrary to the law, in any area of society and the state, must be considered a betrayal of the homeland, the most sacred values of what it means to be Ecuadoran, and God, who will be the judge of our lives,” the bishops stressed.

Violence, state of emergency in Ecuador

President Daniel Noboa decreed a state of emergency Jan. 8 with a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time. The president announced this measure after the dangerous leader of the Los Choneros gang, Adolfo Macías (alias “Fito”), escaped from prison and in the midst of various disturbances in several cities in the country such as prison riots, police officers being kidnapped, and vehicles being set on fire.

In his decree, the president stated that in Ecuador there is an “internal armed conflict” and designated “transnational organized crime gangs as terrorist organizations and belligerent nonstate actors.”

On the list are the following gangs: Águilas, Águilas Killer (Eagles, Killer Eagles), AK47, Caballeros Oscuros (Dark Knights), Chone Killer, Choneros, Corvicheros, Cuartel de las Feas, Cubanos, Fatales, Gánster, Kater Piler, Lagartos, Latin Kings, Lobos (Wolves), Los p.27, Los Tiburones (Sharks), Mafia 18, MafiaTrébol, Patrones, R7, and the Tiguerones.

“I have ordered the Armed Forces to carry out military operations to neutralize these groups,” the president said on X.

In reaction to the measure announced by Noboa, criminals took to the streets and attacked the University of Guayaquil, which ordered the suspension of in-person classes following the attempt to kidnap students.

The criminals took over the TC Televisión station, where they kidnapped a group of workers while they were broadcasting live. Finally the police came to the scene and arrested the 13 who mounted the attack.

Early Tuesday morning, another crime gang leader escaped: Fabricio Colón Pico Suárez, alias “El Salvaje” (the Savage), accused of planning an attack against the nation’s attorney general, Diana Salazar.

According to the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo, 39 prisoners escaped from a rehabilitation center in Riobamba, in the center of the country, 12 of whom were recaptured.

Ecuador, a country of faith

In their statement, the Ecuadorian bishops affirmed that “we are a country of faith. Since we were children we learned that we are all brothers calling God our Father.”

“We entrust to him, once again, the safety of every good Ecuadorian and the stability of the state as a guarantee that peace will return as soon as possible,” they added.

To conclude, the bishops noted that in 2024 Ecuador celebrates “the 150th anniversary of the consecration of our country to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; we commit ourselves to life and justice and we ask him to ‘save Ecuador.’”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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