Apr 23, 2024 - World

Ecuadorians vote to deploy more armed forces to fight crime wave

A man in protective gear pats dow voters

Voters in Ecuador being frisked at a security checkpoint outside a polling station on Sunday. Photo: Vicente Gaibor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ecuadorians on Sunday overwhelmingly voted in favor of President Daniel Noboa's security measures, including the reinstatement of criminal extraditions and deploying more armed forces to fight crime.

The big picture: As gang violence in the country continues, with two mayors killed in the week leading up to the election, the results show that support for Noboa's handling of crime remains high.

The other side: But Will Freeman, a fellow for Latin American studies at the Council for Foreign Relations, tells Axios, "Security has eroded notably in the last month, so the results (Noboa) had managed to achieve have sort of slipped away a bit."

  • A state of emergency that was in place in January to fight increasingly brazen organized gang groups was lifted on April 10 after a constitutional limit.

Zoom in: In the 11-question referendum, voters also approved increasing prison sentences for crimes such as kidnapping and drug-trafficking; facilitating the asset seizures of people suspected of crimes; and adding permanent military checkpoints on any roads leading to penitentiaries.

  • "We'll now have more tools to fight crime and return to peaceful times," Noboa tweeted on Sunday after the preliminary results.
  • But experts have said for the past few months that the measures are not sustainable or sufficient to fight crime long-term.
  • "There is much more this government and future ones need to do," Freeman says. That includes rebuilding the police force, making sure elected officials are protected, and efficiently managing the thousands of people awaiting trial or behind bars.

What to watch: Some of the measures require constitutional reforms, and the National Assembly is held by the opposition, which could delay their implementation.

  • Ecuador is set to have presidential elections next spring, in which Noboa is expected to run for re-election.

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