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Dozens arrested in Ecuador after hospital assault

Police keep watch over arrested men who attempted to take over a hospital in Guayas, Ecuador
Police keep watch over arrested men who attempted to take over a hospital in Guayas, Ecuador - Copyright AFP STRINGER
Police keep watch over arrested men who attempted to take over a hospital in Guayas, Ecuador - Copyright AFP STRINGER

Police in violence-plagued Ecuador arrested 68 people Sunday who had attempted to take over a hospital in the country’s southwest in the midst of a “war” between drug gangs and the security forces.

“We neutralized alleged terrorists who were trying to take over the facilities of a hospital in Yaguachi, Guayas,” police announced on X, the former Twitter.

Those detained were believed to be trying to rescue a colleague who was admitted to the hospital with injuries hours earlier, it added.

Firearms and drugs were seized.

Police said they also raided a “rehabilitation center” that housed a gang command center and brothel, and where several alleged gang members were hiding.

Ecuadoran authorities have recently closed hundreds such centers, essentially gang-run clandestine hospitals that officials say do not have proper facilities for patient care.

Once considered a bastion of peace in Latin America, Ecuador has been plunged into crisis after years of expansion by transnational cartels that use its ports to ship drugs to the United States and Europe.

After a recent spate of violence sparked by the prison escape of Adolfo Macias, a drug kingpin known as “Fito,” President Daniel Noboa imposed a state of emergency and declared the country in a “war” against gangs.

Drug cartels reacted swiftly, threatening to execute civilians and security forces and taking hostage dozens of police and prison officials, since released.

There are some 20 criminal groups in the country of 17 million people, with membership thought to exceed 20,000.

On Wednesday, a prosecutor who had been investigating an attack by an armed gang on a television station mid-broadcast, was shot dead in the port city of Guayaquil.

Media reports on Sunday said the slain prosecutor, Cesar Suarez, had also been looking into fugitive Fito’s family members, who on Friday were detained in Argentina and sent back home.

Highlighting the extent of the drug trade in the region, authorities in both Colombia and Ecuador announced over the weekend that they had intercepted two semi-submersible vessels loaded with tons of drugs in their respective Pacific waters.

Three people on each vessel were arrested.

– US, regional support for Ecuador –

Elsewhere on Sunday, ministers of Andean countries started a meeting in Peru’s capital Lima to discuss the problem of cross-border drug crime that has plunged Ecuador into its recent crisis.

“Transnational organized crime attacks democracy and the internal order of all our countries. That requires joint action,” Peruvian President Dina Boluarte said at the meeting, which was also attended by delegates from Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador.

The United States also announced Sunday that a delegation would visit Ecuador to “consider options to accelerate bilateral security cooperation and discuss collaborative approaches to confront the threats posed by transnational criminal organizations.”

The delegation will meet from Monday to Thursday with Noboa, other top officials and “representatives of civil society at the forefront of the fight against corruption,” a statement by the US embassy in Ecuador said.

It said Chris Dodd, the special presidential advisor for the Americas, will lead the delegation, which will also include the top US general for the Latin America region, Laura Richardson.

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AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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