Internal armed conflict in Ecuador?

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By FRANCISCO HIDALGO FLOR*

The state of “internal armed conflict” declared by the Noboa government does not resolve the immediate and mediate elements of the problem, but benefits the military and US State Department networks

It is a complex situation that Ecuador is going through at the beginning of 2024, now strongly marked by the impact of the increase in violence, reaching levels that, if we compare with records at the end of 2019, pre-pandemic times, have worsened by 300%. Massacres in prisons in clashes between criminal factions have claimed around 170 victims in the last two years. This is appalling, but it cannot be resolved by declaring a state of war. The recent move by the government of new president Daniel Noboa to declare a situation of “internal armed conflict” does not help at all.

One situation is the expansion of drug trafficking gangs and massacres in prisons, and another is an internal armed conflict. It is worth asking: how many countries in the world are experiencing phenomena such as the growth of drug trafficking and the expansion of mafias? Many. And how many classify and treat it as a situation of internal armed conflict? Ecuador and some more.

The causes that led Ecuador to become a crucial point for new drug trafficking circuits to the United States and Europe are due more to external than internal reasons, and are not resolved by a military escalation of the conflict.

Among the external factors to be mentioned are: the increase in coca cultivation and cocaine production in the regions bordering Ecuador, the increasing role of transnational mafias based in Mexico in drug trafficking with the United States and of mafias from the Balkans to European markets, which sought and encouraged “local partners” in Ecuador, and the expansion of demand in the “first world”.

Internal factors include the country's severe economic and unemployment crisis, which has a strong impact on young people in urban favelas, corruption of judges and police, the permeability of coastal ports, export remittances and stimulated financial circuits. by dollarization.

More serious are the impacts on all popular, urban and rural sectors, the expansion of drug trafficking gangs, along with human trafficking and extortion, a danger that is greater in areas of special interest to these sectors, areas close to ports, regardless of their size, and the massive recruitment of young people, sometimes even children. This is expressed mainly in the provinces of the coastal region and also in some of the Amazon, as well as in border areas. An example of this is that the group that recently attacked the television channel TC it was made up of young people between 16 and 24 years old, incapable of transmitting any message other than the display of weapons, dynamite and the intimidation of hostages.

The reasons for the political-military declaration of an “internal armed conflict” do not lie in the expansion of drug trafficking, but elsewhere, in the sectors and forces that see the opportunity to obtain a social consensus that they have not been able to forge in any other way. .

The state of “internal armed conflict” declared by the Noboa government does not resolve the immediate and mediate elements of the problem, but it benefits the military and the expansion of US State Department networks in controlling the country's security and borders, including the maritime. Currently, the government's main spokesman is the head of the joint command of the Armed Forces, and the US ambassador participated in the State Security Council meeting.

This allows the government of new president Daniel Noboa to use a speech and appeal to a more robust type of policy than what he displayed in the election campaign and in his first government events (his public interventions did not even last fifteen minutes). With the chorus of the mass media, the vocabulary of war, armaments, restriction of rights, national unity is expanded and there is even talk of the relevance of a “war tax”.

At the same time, the installation of US military bases was announced, which have already been active in the Galápagos Islands region for some years.

In all of these operations, little or no mention is made of controlling and investigating the circulation of drug trafficking capital in the national financial system. Links with government political sectors were reported, for example, the relationship they had with relatives close to former president Guillermo Lasso. But nothing is said about banks and sectors such as real estate. The condition of a dollarized country is an incentive to launder this type of money.

This situation places the issue of the security crisis and violence at the center of national concerns, and the atmosphere of fear is spreading. One of the effects is that this diverts attention from efforts to strengthen the popular field, both in organizational and political terms. Instead, right-wing and conflagration discourses are consolidated. This contributes to the spread of what we could call “conservative common sense” among the Ecuadorian population.

*Francisco Hidalgo Flor is a professor of sociology at the Central University of Ecuador.

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.


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