Ecuador’s murder rate has quadrupled since 2018, with an unprecedented escalation of lethal violence.

Ecuador's murder rate has quadrupled since 2018, with an unprecedented escalation of lethal violence.

The Escalation of Violence in Ecuador: A Battle for Control


Ecuador, a once-tranquil South American nation, is currently facing an unprecedented surge in lethal violence. In just a year, its homicide rate has skyrocketed from 5.8 per 100,000 people in 2018 to a staggering 26.7 in 2022. This sharp increase has put Ecuador on par with Mexico and Colombia, notorious for their high levels of violence. The Igarape Institute, a public security think tank in Rio de Janeiro, has been tracking these alarming statistics.

According to Robert Muggah, a co-founder of the Igarape Institute, this surge in homicides can be attributed to the intensified competition between rival drug trafficking gangs. Ecuador has become a battleground, as these cartels fiercely compete to control the smuggling routes used to transport cocaine to the lucrative markets of the United States and Europe.

The rise in violence has had devastating consequences not only for the general population but also for those involved in Ecuador’s political landscape. Recently, Fernando Villavicencio, a candidate in the upcoming presidential election, became a tragic victim of this violence. He was gunned down as he left a campaign event in Quito, the capital. While six suspects have been arrested, another died in a shootout with security officials. This brazen act of violence has sent shockwaves across the nation, resulting in President Guillermo Lasso declaring a 60-day state of emergency and deploying troops throughout the Andean nation.

It’s important to note, however, that President Lasso’s declaration of a state of emergency and the deployment of troops have proven ineffective in stemming the rising tide of homicides in the past. The situation has become so dire that the violence has now infiltrated the political realm, further eroding the stability of the nation. In May, a mayor narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, followed by the murder of a city councilman in June. These incidents were followed by the tragic killings of a mayor and a congressional candidate in separate incidents just last month.

Ecuador finds itself at a crossroads, facing a critical challenge in curbing the escalating violence that plagues its society. The drug trafficking industry has played a significant role in fueling this violence, seeking control and domination over the country’s lucrative smuggling routes. If left unchecked, the consequences for Ecuador’s social fabric, political stability, and future prospects could be dire.

To address this crisis, Ecuador will need to take a multi-faceted approach. Relying solely on military tactics and emergency measures won’t provide a sustainable solution. A comprehensive strategy that tackles the roots of the violence, such as poverty, inequality, and corruption, alongside strict law enforcement, could offer a more promising way forward.

Strengthening the country’s institutions, enhancing border control measures, investing in education and youth development, and promoting economic opportunities are all crucial components of a comprehensive plan to restore peace and security. Additionally, international cooperation and support will play a vital role in Ecuador’s efforts to dismantle the drug trade networks that are terrorizing the nation.

Ultimately, Ecuador’s journey towards peace and stability will require a collective effort, both domestically and internationally. Only through a united front, holistic strategies, and tireless determination can Ecuador regain its once-tranquil status and protect the lives and futures of its people.