Latin America Elections in Ecuador: "In Guayaquil we have terror, we have voted with fear"

María José Lapierre has just voted and has done so with fear, the same fear that the citizens of Guayaquil have felt for more than two years

Latin America Elections in Ecuador: "In Guayaquil we have terror, we have voted with fear"

María José Lapierre has just voted and has done so with fear, the same fear that the citizens of Guayaquil have felt for more than two years. The Pearl of the Pacific no longer shines as before, having become the epicenter of the wave of violence caused by drug trafficking.

The most populous city in the country will once again be key in the final result of the Ecuadorian presidential elections this Sunday. One of his sons, the centrist Daniel Noboa, continued to lead various exit polls at noon, although his rival, Luisa González, a candidate chosen by another Guayaquil native (former President Rafael Correa), still dreams of a last-minute comeback. . In the campaign command of the National Democratic Alliance (ADN), it was considered essential to reduce the difference achieved in Guayaquil and its dormitory cities by the Citizen Revolution in August. To achieve the final bypass, Noboa needed to overcome a disadvantage of 10 percentage points.

"I was scared when I arrived at my polling station, at the Faculty of Mathematics. In the first round there were only about 10 soldiers, today I counted more than 40, all armed. How scary!" Lapierre, a graduate, describes to EL MUNDO of Tourism, 25 years old, who is part of the group made up of young Ecuadorians, the most sought after in these elections.

Little remains of the Guayaquil of other times, even its name has changed. Since two years ago several media outlets invented a neologism to criticize the administration, social networks and young people have popularized the term Guayakill to specify their state of mind. "In Guayakill we have terror, we feel the tension in the atmosphere. We have voted with fear. Fear has a thousand faces in our city," concludes Lapierre.

We are in the south of the city, at the La Pradera 2 school, which is part of district 1, the most popular and the most dangerous. Its proximity to the ports, from where cocaine leaves for Europe and the United States, has triggered insecurity in this sector. An area full of young people, who repeat similar slogans after voting, trapped in a spiral of despair: we are tired of the same thing, we want new politicians, enough of so much theft and corruption. "Chucha, until when? We're risking our future and it doesn't seem to matter," complains Jonny T.

Reluctantly ("the vote is secret, Mr. Journalist") he confesses that he had opted for Noboa because of his youth (the candidate of the National Democratic Alliance is 35 years old), but without any enthusiasm. That is left to the goal with the selection of Kendry Páez, the Ecuadorian Lamine Yamal.

"Young people are the great forgotten ones of traditional politics," recently elected congressman Jorge Acaiturri, representative of District 1, acknowledges to this newspaper. "Correamism, without intending it, turned Guayaquil into a Disneyworld for international bands. There is no security policy from Quito, we are a failed State," diagnoses Acaiturri, who is well versed in the social interweavings of his city.

The landing of the Mexican cartels of Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación, and of the Albanian mafia thanks to the immigration facilities granted by the governments, have strengthened the local gangs, today converted into a thousand-headed monster. The Choneros, the Lobos, the Chonekillers or the R7 control micro-trafficking and vaccines (extortion), while preparing constant shipments of cocaine through the ports. The war between them for power and territory fills the media daily, with a long list of dead, most of them their soldiers, plus collateral victims. The videos with their actions, which are uploaded to the networks, multiply the panic.

"Today we are another society, a closed society, that goes out less, that has seen its businesses decrease dramatically. In the last two years, the levels of violence have exacerbated social conflicts. Microtrafficking even in schools, with many addicts "We never thought that would happen in our society," councilor Jorge Rodríguez told EL MUNDO.

In 2022, there were just over 4,000 murders throughout the country, but so far this year the 5,000 barrier has been widely surpassed and the worst police expectations bring the final number of homicides closer to 8,000.

With all this data in their hearts, citizens have returned to the polls this Sunday, without enthusiasm, almost out of obligation (voting is mandatory with fines for those who do not do so), but with the desire that their country return to the past . They do it gripped by fear, like the student María José Lapierre, who finally admits that she voted invalid: "I really prefer Noboa, but many people say that with him there will be more violence. And because of Correism I would never do it," confesses the young.

Fear has a thousand faces in Guayakill, further increased by the dirty campaigns that in recent days claimed that Noboa is too soft to confront crime, something that the citizen revolution did know how to do during the Correa decade.