Nuevo Culture

Ecuador Declares Martial Law in Response to Day Filled With Gang Violence — Here’s What Happened

The scenes in Ecuador on January 9th, 2024 played out like something straight out of a movie or a video game. Gang members from over 20 gangs took hostages on live TV, kidnapped police officers, stormed the University of Guayaquil, and set off explosions.

It all started on Sunday, January 7th, when Adolfo Macias, the leader of the Los Choneros gang, disappeared from prison. He was serving a 34-year sentence. But the issues with the prison system wouldn’t stop with Macias’ escape, as on Monday, at least six different prisons across Ecuador faced incidents of violence, with the prisoners taking control of the prisons in some cases. At least 150 guards were taken hostage.

The violence then extended to the streets, where gang members kidnapped police officers, set off explosions, interrupted a live TV broadcast, and took hostages. Civilians were seen fleeing, as videos circulated on social media of gang members trying to kidnap students from the University of Guayaquil.

Other videos showed hurt civilians being rushed to hospitals, escaping subway stations that had been rushed by gunmen, and trying to get out of the city. 

Then there are videos of complete chaos as the military tried to regain control of the city.

Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa declared a 60-day martial law on Tuesday, January 9th.

The wording of the decree that institutes martial law refers to the situation in the country as an “internal armed conflict.” The decree also identifies several gangs as terrorist groups, including Los Choneros. The same decree directs the armed forces to “neutralize” the groups.

President Noboa, who said in a video message that the government would not negotiate with what he called “terrorists,” also said the violence is a response to his government’s new “Phoenix Plan” for security, which includes a new high-security prison for gang leaders.

At least 10 deaths from the violence on Tuesday were reported.