Ecuador: Five tourists kidnapped and killed by drug traffickers

The tourists had no ties to criminal organizations, but the attackers “apparently mistook these individuals as their adversaries”.

Two people were detained this Saturday for the case of five tourists kidnapped, interrogated, and killed on a beach in southwest Ecuador by drug traffickers who apparently mistook them for members of a rival gang.

Six adults and five Ecuadorian children, who had arrived at the Ayampe resort on Thursday afternoon, were abducted the following day when around twenty armed individuals stormed their hotel.

The victims underwent “interrogations,” and the bodies of five adults were found with gunshot wounds on a nearby road, said local police commander Richard Vaca.

The tourists had no ties to criminal organizations, but the attackers “apparently mistook these individuals as their adversaries in (…) the microtrafficking dispute in the area,” he added.

During the capture operation, automatic rifles, pistols, explosives, and ammunition were seized.

Ecuador, once one of the most peaceful countries in Latin America, is now under the control of criminal gangs vying for control of drug trafficking routes. A cycle of violence has led to a rise in the homicide rate, from 6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018 to a record 43 in 2023.

President Daniel Noboa expressed his “solidarity with the families” of the victims on Saturday on his X account.

“This is proof that narcoterrorism and its allies are seeking spaces to intimidate us, but they will not succeed,” he warned.

In January, Noboa declared the nation in a state of internal armed conflict, following a violent onslaught by criminal gangs that left twenty dead, attacks on the press, explosions, and over 200 kidnappings in prisons and streets.

Despite the state of emergency imposed since January by government order, violence in Ecuador persists. On Friday, four people, including a soldier, were killed in the city of Manta, in Manabí.

Last weekend, the mayor of San Vicente, in the same province, was shot in a new case of political violence. Her death adds to the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio and Manta’s mayor, Agustín Intriago, in 2023.

On Wednesday, a riot in a prison in Guayaquil (southwest) left three inmates dead and six injured. This occurred at the same prison from which Adolfo “Fito” Macías, leader of the criminal gang Los Choneros, one of the country’s main gangs, escaped.

Noboa, in power since November, called for a referendum on April 21 to consult Ecuadorians on whether to toughen measures to combat drug trafficking or not. Among the questions is a free pass for the military to support the police without the need for a state of emergency, the extradition of Ecuadorians involved in organized crime, and increased penalties for terrorism and drug trafficking.

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