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Ecuador Referendum Targets Gang Violence With Security Measures

Ecuadorean President Daniel Noboa, front right, and U.S. Ambassador Michael Fitzpatrick, front left, attend a ceremony at Cotopaxi airport to receive a Hercules aircraft donated by the U.S. gov

Ecuadorians are set to participate in a crucial referendum aimed at addressing the surge in violence attributed to criminal gangs in the country. The referendum, scheduled for Sunday, features 11 questions primarily focused on enhancing security measures to combat the escalating crime rates.

Key proposals include the deployment of the army to tackle criminal gangs, streamlining the extradition process for accused criminals, and imposing longer prison sentences for individuals convicted of drug trafficking offenses. This initiative comes in response to a recent spike in violence, with Ecuador experiencing a rise in homicides, reaching a rate of 40 deaths per 100,000 people last year.

President Daniel Noboa has taken a strong stance against criminal organizations, particularly following a disturbing incident in January where masked gunmen, allegedly acting on behalf of incarcerated drug traffickers, carried out a brazen attack that included seizing control of a live television broadcast.

Proposals include deploying the army, streamlining extradition, and imposing longer prison sentences.
Referendum focuses on enhancing security measures against criminal gangs.
President Noboa declared an 'internal armed conflict' to combat criminal organizations.
Referendum aims to formalize and extend executive powers to tackle identified gangs.
Noboa seeks public support and political strength ahead of re-election bid.
Referendum outcome may influence Ecuador's security policies and upcoming presidential race.
Ecuador experienced a spike in homicides, reaching 40 deaths per 100,000 people last year.
Masked gunmen, allegedly linked to drug traffickers, carried out a brazen attack in January.

In response to these challenges, the 36-year-old leader declared an “internal armed conflict,” granting him emergency powers to mobilize the army in pursuit of approximately 20 identified gangs now classified as “terrorists.” The upcoming referendum seeks to formalize and extend these executive powers, providing a legal framework for the government's security efforts.

By adopting a law-and-order approach reminiscent of El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele, President Noboa aims to garner public support and potentially strengthen his political standing as he gears up for a re-election bid next year. Noboa, hailing from a prominent banana exporting family, assumed office to complete the remaining 18 months of a presidential term left vacant by his predecessor's resignation amid corruption allegations.

The political landscape in Ecuador remains dynamic, with the referendum poised to shape the country's security policies and potentially influence the upcoming presidential race. As Ecuadorians prepare to cast their votes, the outcome of the referendum could have far-reaching implications for the nation's efforts to combat crime and maintain public safety.

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