Ecuador prosecutor investigating gang attack on TV studio shot dead

A prosecutor investigating an on-air attack on a public television station last week has been shot dead in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city.

Prosecutor Cesar Suarez, who earlier investigated some other high-profile cases, was shot on Wednesday while driving, according to Attorney General Diana Salazar.

“Organised crime groups, criminals, terrorists will not stop our commitment to society,” she said in a video broadcast on X.Police were looking into who murdered Suarez, who was on his way to a court hearing when he was shot, the Council of the Judiciary said in a statement condemning the attack.

“We reject all forms of violence as a response to the conflict we are experiencing and we ratify the strong commitment of the national government to supporting justice,” Defence Minister Gian Carlo Loffredo said in a message to journalists.

Suarez was also investigating the Metastasis case involving an Ecuadorian druglord who allegedly received favourable treatment from judges, prosecutors, police officers and senior officials.

State of emergency

The South American country which borders Colombia and Peru, has been rocked by some recent violent attacks, including the hostage-taking of more than 200 prison staff, explosions in several cities and the kidnapping of police officers.

The most recent uptick in violence followed the escape of Jose Adolfo Macias, aka “Fito”, the leader of Ecuador’s biggest gang, Los Choneros. Macias was serving a 34-year sentence at the La Regional prison in the port city of Guayaquil.

His disappearance in early January prompted the government to declare a 60-day state of emergency that involved sending the military into prisons. This spurred 30 attacks around the country, including the assault at the TV station in Guayaquil.

Ecuador’s national prisons agency (SNAI) said at the weekend that all prison staff taken hostage during prison riots had been freed.

The hostages, who SNAI authorities previously said were 158 prison guards and 20 administrative staffers, had been held in at least seven prisons.

The murder rate in Ecuador quadrupled from 2018 to 2022 and a record 200 tonnes of drugs were seized last year.

Security in the country has been worsening since the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to that, Ecuador was a part of the “pink tide”, or left-leaning countries in Latin America, and enjoyed a period of stability and security under former President Rafael Correa from 2007 to 2018.

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