Ecuador Shaken by Days of Terror After Gang Leader’s Disappearance

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Vowing to bring peace back to a shattered country, the President Daniel Noboa has deployed the military to take on what he calls “terrorist” groups.

Soldiers on patrol in a square.
Soldiers patrolling Independence Square and the grounds around the presidential palace on Wednesday in Quito, Ecuador.Credit…Rodrigo Buendia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Annie CorrealGenevieve Glatsky and José María León Cabrera

Annie Correal and Genevieve Glatsky reported from Bogotá, Colombia, and José María León Cabrera from Quito, Ecuador.

A sense of dread took hold in Ecuador on Wednesday, with the streets empty, classes canceled and many people afraid to leave their homes after the disappearance of two gang leaders on Monday set off prison riots, police kidnappings and the on-air storming of a TV station.

Even for a country accustomed to violence, the events that have rocked Ecuador this week were shocking.

“I feel like the world I knew before is gone,” said María Ortega, a schoolteacher in Guayaquil, a sprawling coastal city. “You can know how things start, but not how they’ll end.”

It began with violence erupting in prisons across the South American country as soldiers surged into a penal compound in Guayaquil, after the disappearance of a powerful gang leader, Adolfo Macías, from his cell. Inmates took prison guards captive, and dozens of detainees escaped, including another prominent gang leader.

The violence soon spilled over into cities and towns, where drug gangs run rampant. Explosions were reported, police officers were kidnapped, hospitals were seized and cars set on fire. People scrambled to get home, jumping on the back of trucks as bus service stopped in Guayaquil, and the police and armed people exchanged gunfire, including near a school.

By the end of a bloody day, at least 11 people had died throughout the country, according to the authorities, including a well-known musician, Diego Gallardo, 31, who was in his car on the way to pick up his son from school when he was hit by a stray bullet.


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