Skip to Content

Ecuador declares ‘internal armed conflict’ as gunmen take over live TV broadcast

By Ana María Cañizares, Abel Alvarado, Tara John, Michael Rios, Karol Suarez and AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN

Quito, Ecuador (CNN) — Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa has declared an “internal armed conflict” in the country, ordering security forces to “neutralize” several criminal groups accused of spreading extreme violence in the Latin American nation.

The decree came shortly after hooded and armed men interrupted a live television broadcast – one of several violent incidents playing out across the country on Tuesday.

Ecuadorians were stunned as they watched the takeover of TC Television’s live broadcast from the coastal city of Guayaquil. Social media video showed the assailants forcing staff of the state-owned network onto the floor of the studio as shots and yelling were heard in the background.

Ecuador’s police later said they had arrested all the armed men, members of the media outlet had been evacuated, and all staff and hostages were alive.

At least four firearms, two grenades, and “explosive material” were recovered and 13 people apprehended, César Zapata, General Commander of the National Police said. The perpetrators would be brought to justice for their “acts of terrorism,” he added.

TC Television anchor Jorge Rendon described the takeover of the broadcast as an “extremely violent attack.”

“They wanted to enter the studio so that we could say what they wanted, I guess their message,” Rendon recalled in a video on TC Television’s official X account. Rendon said he knew of one person being shot and another injured by the assailants. Police have not confirmed those injuries.

The situation has struck fear among many Ecuadorians. One woman, who lives outside Guayaquil and was told to go home early by her boss, described the chaotic traffic on her drive home. “Cars were going the wrong way; everyone was just trying to get through,” she said.

“The scariest part was seeing the desperation, seeing businesses shutting down, desperate people, including children and women, running frantically in avenues only meant for cars.”

The country has been rocked by explosions, police kidnappings, and prison disturbances since Noboa on Monday declared a nationwide state of emergency after high-profile gang leader Adolfo “Fito” Macias escaped from a prison in Guayaquil.

Eight people were killed in Guayaquil on Tuesday, according to local police. Two police officers were also killed in the nearby city of Nobol, National Police said on X.

Meanwhile, 10 people were arrested after three kidnapped police officers were freed in the southwest city of Machala, National Police said Tuesday night. Earlier, police said at least seven officers had been taken captive in three cities since the state of emergency was announced.

At least 70 people were arrested across the whole country, police said Wednesday morning. Eight explosive devices were seized along with 15 Molotov cocktails, nine firearms, 308 firearm cartridges, six motorcycles and six vehicles.

Ecuador is “living a real nightmare,” former President Rafael Correa said in a video shared on X Tuesday. The situation was “the result of the systematic destruction of the rule of law, of the errors of hatred accumulated over the last seven years,” he claimed.

Spiraling violence

The state of emergency will last for 60 days and mobilize the police and armed forces to control disturbances to public order.

It includes a curfew, from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., to restrict meetings and actions that may threaten public order. Noboa’s beleaguered predecessor, former President Guillermo Lasso, instated several states of emergency with limited success.

The decree signed by Noboa on Tuesday declared the country was in an “internal armed conflict” and ordered armed forces to carry out military operations to “neutralize” armed groups identified as terrorists.

Adm. Jaime Vela Erazo, head of the Joint Command of Ecuador’s Armed Forces, on Tuesday vowed not to “back down or negotiate” with armed groups, adding the “future of our country is at stake.”

“From this moment on, every terrorist group identified in the aforementioned [emergency] decree has become a military target,” he said.

The spiraling violence is the most extreme test yet for the new president, who won last year’s run-off vote with promises to tackle soaring crime.

Ecuador’s worsening security situation is largely driven by rival criminal organizations, which have been meting out brutal and often public shows of violence in the country’s streets and prisons in their battle to control drug trafficking routes.

In one of the kidnappings this week, in which three agents were taken, an explosive device had been “placed and detonated” in a vehicle the officers were moving in, police said.

In the northwestern city of Esmeraldas, two vehicles were set on fire with one causing a blaze at a gas station.

In Guayaquil, one hospital said security guards had stopped armed individuals from entering the facility, denying reports that some health personnel had been kidnapped. The military is now guarding the hospital, it said.

And in the capital Quito, police found a burned vehicle with traces of gas cylinders inside. Residents reported on social media they had heard a loud explosion in the area.

Police also said they had received reports of an explosion at a pedestrian bridge outside Quito and attended “over 20 emergencies during (Monday) evening and overnight (Tuesday) in different parts of the country.” No known casualties related to the explosions were immediately reported.

Amid the unrest in Ecuador, countries across the region, including neighboring Colombia and Peru, expressed concern over the situation and support for Noboa’s government to restore order.

Officials in Peru said the country plans to declare an emergency along its entire northern border with Ecuador. Peru’s interior minister has also ordered National Police to reinforce security on the border, the interior ministry said.

In a statement on X, a US State Department official said the United States stands with the people of Ecuador and is “ready to provide assistance to the Ecuadorian government.”

Prison chaos

Ecuador’s penitentiary service, the SNAI, said at least six incidents took place inside prisons Monday, including disturbances and retention of prison guards. The situation in prisons was not under control, it said.

Meanwhile, another alleged gang leader, Fabricio Colon Pico, escaped from a prison in the central city of Riobamba, according to its mayor John Vinueza.

Colon Pico had been captured last Friday after being publicly identified by Attorney General Diana Salazar as being part of a plan to attack her. Along with Colon Pico, 38 other inmates escaped, of which 12 have been recaptured, the SNAI told CNN.

Ecuador’s Armed Forces said they carried out control operations Monday night and early Tuesday in the most conflict-ridden areas.

On the political side, Ecuador’s National Assembly is holding an emergency meeting to “generate concrete actions in face of the national commotion and multiple acts that threaten public peace.”

Speaking to Radio Canela on Wednesday, Noboa said the prison officials who were on duty when Fito escaped will be prosecuted, warning his country is in a “state of war” against “terrorist groups.”

The search for Adolfo Macias, more popularly known by his alias “Fito,” continued as more than 3,000 police officers and members of the armed forces have been deployed to find him, the government said Sunday. Ecuador authorities said they have not yet pinpointed the exact time and date that Macias escaped prison.

Macías is the leader of Los Choneros, one of Ecuador’s most feared gangs, which has been linked to maritime drug trafficking to Mexico and the United States, working with with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel and the Oliver Sinisterra Front in Colombia, according to the Insight Crime research center.

He was jailed after being convicted of drug trafficking. Before his assassination, the late Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio said in July that he had been threatened by Macías and warned against continuing with his campaign against gang violence for the leadership.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Karol Suarez and Gerardo Lemos contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - World

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

CNN Newsource


News Channel 3-12 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content