Ecuador is in a "state of war" with "terrorist" criminal groups linked to drug trafficking, President Daniel Noboa said Wednesday, pledging not to give in to their demands.
"We are practically, yes, in a non-international armed conflict. We are fighting for national peace. We are also fighting against terrorist groups that today number more than 20,000 people," Noboa said in an interview with Radio Canela in capital Quito.
The government has identified members of 22 criminal organizations as "terrorists" in an executive order issued Tuesday that declares a state of "internal armed conflict," allowing the armed forces to be deployed to combat the gangs.
"When they are terrorists and we live in a state of war, other laws apply. International humanitarian law also applies," said Noboa, a 36-year-old businessman and politician who assumed power less than two months ago, on November 23.
The decree "is a message that we are not going to give in, that we are not going to let society die slowly, but that today we are going to fight them, today we are going to provide solutions and soon we are going to bring peace to Ecuadorian families," he added.
Ecuador has recently been plunged into violence that appeared to spin out of control Monday and Tuesday when riots broke out at several prisons, explosions went off in a few cities, and armed men broke into a television station amid a live broadcast, leading to 13 arrests, vehicles set on fire and police officers kidnapped.
(Cover: Soldiers check for weapons at a check-point on a north-bound highway in Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 10, 2024. /CFP)