Ecuador: the prosecutor investigating the taking of hostages on a murdered TV set

The prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the irruption of armed men live on the set of an Ecuadorian public television channel on January 9, briefly taking journalists and other employees hostage, was assassinated, a announced Wednesday, January 17, the prosecution to Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Ecuador: the prosecutor investigating the taking of hostages on a murdered TV set

The prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the irruption of armed men live on the set of an Ecuadorian public television channel on January 9, briefly taking journalists and other employees hostage, was assassinated, a announced Wednesday, January 17, the prosecution to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

This live irruption of heavily armed men, pinning to the ground, under threat, journalists and employees of the TC Television channel, in Guayaquil (South-West), shocked the country, where a wave of violence was triggered by drug trafficking gangs. The police, who quickly arrived on the scene, arrested thirteen attackers, without causing any casualties.

According to the prosecution, the murdered prosecutor in Guayaquil (South-West) was in charge of determining which gang had carried out this assault. Local media broadcast images of the prosecutor's car with several bullet holes in the driver's window.

“In response to the murder of our colleague César Suarez (…), I will be categorical: organized crime groups, criminals and terrorists will not stop our commitment to Ecuadorian society,” said Attorney General Diana Salazar, in a video posted on X.

Defense Minister Gian Carlo Loffredo said in a statement that his government rejected “any form of violence as a response to the conflict we are experiencing.” “We reaffirm the government’s strong commitment to supporting the administration of justice,” he added.

“I was struck by their inexperience.”

During the attack on the television set, one of the captive journalists sent a WhatsApp message to an AFP correspondent in which he declared: “They came in to kill us, my God protect us.”

Complaints were audible in the background. The broadcast of the images continued live amid the gunshots for several minutes, despite the lights going out on the set and the absence of camera movement. Until the supposed intervention of the police, shouting “Police, police”.

Some images remain in memory: the signs made in front of the camera by the attackers boasting to claim their gangs. Or the shotgun placed on a reporter’s head.

“I was struck by their inexperience,” one of the journalists taken hostage told AFP. “Deep down, they were just kids. » This is confirmed by the presentation to the press of the members of the group arrested and handcuffed. Authorities say they are between 16 and 25 years old.

A former haven of peace ravaged by violence

This assault was the media high point of the chain of violence triggered by the escape of the feared leader of the Choneros gang, Adolfo Macias, alias “Fito”. Several mutinies and hostage-taking of guards affected prisons, and in the streets of Guayaquil or the capital Quito, gangs sowed terror with explosions or shots aimed at the police. To restore order, Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa declared the country “at war” against gangs and sent more than 20,000 soldiers into the field. Violence in the country has left at least nineteen dead.

Prosecutors are under threat from the twenty or so criminal organizations operating in Ecuador, once a haven of peace ravaged by violence after becoming the main export point for cocaine produced in the neighboring states of Peru and Colombia. . In June, prosecutor Leonardo Palacios was killed by gunmen in the town of Duran, neighboring Guayaquil.

Politicians are also targeted. At the end of 2023, presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in Quito and Agustin Intriago, mayor of Manta (west), one of the country's main cities, were also killed by criminals.

Street murders increased by 800% between 2018 and 2023, from 6 to 46 per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2023, 7,800 homicides were recorded and 220 tonnes of drugs seized