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Ecuador's Drug Violence Fuels Surge of Migrants at U.S. Border

Once one of Latin America's safest countries, Ecuador has become one of the deadliest, with drug-related violence driving a surge in migration to the U.S. border, the Wall Street Journal reports. Homicides have quadrupled since 2019, and gang violence has increased significantly since 2020, all fueled by record cocaine production in neighboring Colombia and a war among Ecuadorean drug gangs supported by Mexican and Albanian cartels. “Everybody is looking for a way to leave, because they don’t see any possibility of things improving,” said Billy Navarrete, director of the Guayaquil-based Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. Since October, the start of the 2023 fiscal year, some 68,000 Ecuadoreans have arrived at the U.S. southern border, up from 5,727 in the year-earlier period, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.


The carnage in Guayaquil, a city of 3 million where gangs fight for control of cocaine-trafficking routes to maritime ports, resembles scenes from the drug wars of northern Mexico. Police and residents say that assassins gun down prosecutors and law-enforcement officers, bodies are hung from bridges, and gangs detonate car bombs and recruit children as hitmen. Local media outlets say that death threats have led them to stop publishing the bylines of reporters who write about crime. Killings in Guayaquil are up about 65% in the first four months of 2023 from a year earlier, according to the police, making it one of the world’s most violent cities. That means Guayaquil is on track to have more homicides per capita than cities such as Juárez, Mexico, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, had last year, according to the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a Mexico-based organization that tracks the world’s most dangerous cities. Much of Colombia's cocaine moves through Ecuador because of its porous border and weak port security, according to local security experts and Western officials. Mexican gangs mainly send cocaine to the U.S., while Albanian gangs orchestrate shipments to Europe from Ecuador, according to Ecuadorean law-enforcement officials.

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