On January 8, the president of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, declared a nationwide state of emergency that will last 60 days. It is set to end on March 8, and Noboa claimed that this declaration meant to help re-stabilize Ecuador. But why was this declared in the first place?

Ecuador itself is located in a notoriously unstable part of the world. Sandwiched between Colombia and Peru (two countries infamous for illegal drug trade), Ecuador had seen mostly peace before 2016. Prior to this year, Colombia had been engaged in a 52 year long fight between the acting government and a Marxist guerilla group, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). During this period, FARC had seized control of major hubs of transportation, allowing for the drug trafficking industry to run rampant in Colombia. In 2016, president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos began a negotiating process with FARC, which led to them pulling out of the region.

In response to the Colombian crackdown, these well-established drug trafficking rings scrambled to move to Ecuador. This resulted in a battle for supremacy in the nation. Since then, a record high surge of violence has been underway as different groups vie for control of Ecuadorian drug routes. Multiple conflicts have broken out, with one group of protests even forcing the government to leave the capital city of Quito and begin operating in Guayaquil, a port city. January 7, however, reshaped the nature of the conflict

On the morning of Sunday, January 7 2024, Fito was set to be transferred from the city of Guayaquil to a maximum-security prison called “The Rock.” However, prison guards could not find him anywhere when they searched the prison. Police are still unsure of how he escaped, or if he is hiding locally or if he has left the area. The day after, another prominent gang leader, Fabricio Colon Pico, also escaped from his prison cell. After these escapes, president Noboa declared a state of emergency, which established a curfew and removed the right to assembly. It also allowed for police and military to take over prisons.

Following this declaration, a number of attacks were carried out in various cities across Ecuador, including explosions in public areas and the kidnapping of four police officers. On January 9th, multiple drug gangs released threats of war. They raided a TV station during a live broadcast, taking multiple journalists hostage. The station was later raided back by the Ecuadorian government, freeing the hostages. Los Choneros gunmen have also been attacking multiple hospitals, and have taken a barrage of police officers hostage. Los Choneros have often forced these officers to read messages claiming the attacks are a response to Noboas' state of emergency declaration. Kidnappings have also unfolded at the University of Guayaquil, where students have had to barricade themselves inside of classrooms.

In addition to all of this, gunmen have been executing prison guards, attacking public spaces, setting cars on fire, and threatening to kill anyone out after 11:00 p.m.. Most businesses and public areas have been evacuated and closed. As Ecuadorians flee the country, lots are headed north towards the US, seeking shelter and aid. On top of our growing immigration crisis, this could heavily impact the US.