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The city of Esmeraldas has 81 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, a rate that is almost four times higher than the 2022 national average.
On June 15, Insight Crime published a report compiling subnational data on homicides in Latin American countries. In that information, the city of Esmeraldas in Ecuador stands out for having become a highly violent territory.
Since 2016, the homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants has increased by nearly 500 percent. While that proportion was 10 homicides in 2019, it reached 81 homicides in 2022, a year in which the Ecuadorian average was four times lower, at 22 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
"Much of this violence is linked to the booming cocaine trade and Ecuador's convenient location as a drug departure point to Europe," said InSight Crime.
"A patchwork of gangs fights to transport cocaine shipments that make their way through waterways extending south from Ecuador's border with Colombia, the world's cocaine production hub, to its Pacific ports."
"But murders have risen as the volumes of cocaine moving through the country have increased," InSight Crime pointed out, and mentioned that the Tiguerones, which is the largest gang in Esmeraldas, has between 4,000 and 5,000 members.
The tweet reads, "For years, Ecuador had one of the region's lowest homicide rates. But violence has soared, especially in Esmeraldas, a province with key ports for drug traffickers."
Insecurity in Ecuador has increased since the dismantling of public services caused by budget cuts that former President Lenin Moreno (2017-2021) made to please the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
President Guillermo Lasso has deepened these austerity policies, making gang-related violence the main concern for citizens ahead of the elections scheduled for August.
Regarding this issue, Citizen Revolution candidate Luisa Gonzalez warned that her administration will firmly combat criminal gangs but will also implement policies to address the underlying structural causes of crime.
"We must tackle criminal gangs, but we must also address the structural drives of violence. We cannot look the other way and only think about exerting force against criminal gangs... We must also work to address root causes such as hunger, unemployment, and lack of opportunities," said Gonzalez, who could become Ecuador's first elected female president.
#Ecuador ���� | Ecuadorian presidential pre-candidate Luisa González and vice-presidential candidate Andrés Arauz were attacked with tear gas by the Ecuadorian national police. pic.twitter.com/3XIcN127uB