Ecuador announces a state of emergency after notorious drug lord disappears from detention

Ecuador has entered a state of emergency after one of the most dangerous criminals, Adolfo Macías of Los Choneros, disappeared from his cell and prison guards were overpowered and taken hostage during riots in prisons across the country.

Currently, a massive manhunt is underway as thousands of soldiers and police officers search for Adolfo Macías, also known as Fito, the convicted leader of the notorious drug gang Los Choneros.

The 44-year-old drug lord went missing on Sunday after he escaped from the prison in the port city of Guayaquil, where he was serving his sentence. He was due to be transferred to a maximum security facility in the same city.

In response, President Daniel Noboa, who was elected in October, declared a 60-day state of emergency late on Monday. He stated, “It is time for those convicted of drug trafficking, assassination, and organized crime to cease dictating terms to the government.”

Noboa, 35, who was elected in November with a promise to tackle violent crime, instructed the army and police force to take action. He added, “We will not negotiate with terrorists, and we will not stop until we restore peace to the people of Ecuador,” in a social media post.

In recent years, the South American nation has seen an alarming increase in violence, with successive governments struggling to control organized crime factions. Macías’ disappearance, an influential figure who even filmed a “narcocorrido” music video while behind bars, led authorities to scramble and determine if he had escaped, much like he did a decade ago from another prison.

The prison authority of Ecuador confirmed that guards had been taken hostage in five prisons across the country, without providing further details. Unverified videos circulated on social media depicted masked gang members holding prison wardens at knifepoint, reading identical statements urging President Noboa to “safeguard their lives and security.”

“We are fathers, heads of households, who, in many cases, understand your actions, but we implore you for not neglecting those of us who are on the front lines, facing bullets,” the statements in the videos read. The veracity of these videos could not be independently verified.

César Zapata, the general commander of the national police, stated on Sunday night that Macías had vanished from his cell, and an investigation was underway.

The prosecutors’ office of Ecuador tweeted on Sunday that they were investigating the case as a probable “prisoner’s escape.” On Monday, they announced that two officials had been arrested on suspicion of aiding Macías in his escape.

Macías had been serving a 34-year sentence since 2011 for charges including drug trafficking, murder, and organized crime. He was imprisoned at Guayas 4, also known as La Regional, in Guayaquil, the city at the forefront of the brutal drug war.

Los Choneros is one of the Ecuadorian gangs identified by authorities as responsible for a surge in violence, reaching its peak last year with the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. Security analysts believe the gang has connections with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

Although the politician claimed he had been threatened by the criminal faction before his death, authorities have yet to directly accuse Macías or his group of being involved in Villavicencio’s murder.

Shortly after Villavicencio’s killing, Macías was transferred from La Regional to a maximum-security prison within the same complex in Guayaquil. However, he was returned to the lighter-security prison in less than a month without any explanation.

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