We just launched two resources about Ecuador that have been in the works all month: a mini-report and a podcast.
First, the report: Why Ecuador Should Not Replicate the ‘Bukele Model’.
Among several reasons:
- Ecuador is 13 times larger than El Salvador.
- If Ecuador were to imprison as much of its population as Bukele has, it’d be like locking up the entire city of Manta.
- Thanks to drug prohibition and so much cocaine passing through the country, Ecuador’s criminal groups are much wealthier.
“Here are some numbers that explain why Ecuador should not replicate El Salvador’s model of mass incarceration. If Noboa were to emulate what El Salvador has done over the past two years, the human and financial costs would be enormous, and the results in terms of public safety would be middling at best.”
While this isn’t the first time Ecuador’s government has declared a state of exception, the prominence of organized crime and the consequential rise in insecurity is a new reality for the country. Ecuador has seen a six-fold homicide rate increase in three years; it is now South America’s worst, and Ecuadorians are the second nationality, behind Venezuelans, fleeing through the Darién Gap.
How did this happen? How can Ecuador’s government, civil society, and the international community address it?
This episode features International Crisis Group Fellow and author of the recent report Ecuador’s Descent Into Chaos, Glaeldys Gonzalez Calanche, and John Walsh, WOLA’s director for drug policy and the Andes. The discussion covers how Ecuador suddenly reached such high levels of insecurity, the implications of President Daniel Noboa’s state of emergency and “state of internal armed conflict” declarations, an evaluation of international drug markets and state responses, and a look at U.S. policy.
Gonzalez attributes the lead-up to Ecuador’s violent new reality to three factors:
- Ecuador’s gradual transition into a position of high importance in the international drug trade.
- The prison system crisis and the government’s incapacity to address it.
- The fragmentation of Ecuadorian criminal groups after the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC and the decline of Los Choneros, a criminal group with former hegemonic control.
Gonzalez describes the state of emergency as “a band-aid solution to control the situation now, but not looking really to tackle these structural problems.”
Walsh describes Ecuador’s case as a “wake up call” to the consequences of the drug war prohibitionist approach: “This isn’t just a drug policy question. This is a question about democracies delivering on the basic needs of their citizens, which is security. And I think prohibition in the drug war doesn’t support security. It tends to undermine it.” John calls on the international community to recognize this as a humanitarian issue as well, indicating that “people are basically held hostage. Not in their house, but in their whole community.”