The US has imposed sanctions on Los Choneros, a feared Ecuadorean crime syndicate, and its fugitive leader José Adolfo Macías.
Once a relatively tranquil country popular with foreign retirees, Ecuador is currently tackling a crime wave that has seen the murder rate increase nine-fold since 2017.
“Drug trafficking gangs such as Los Choneros, many with ties to powerful drug cartels in Mexico, threaten the lives and livelihoods of communities in Ecuador and throughout the region,” Brian Nelson, the US Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement on Wednesday announcing the sanctions.
Macías sprung jail on January 7, triggering a squall of gang-related violence that saw a TV station attacked on-air, while more than 200 prison workers were taken hostage. In response, President Daniel Noboa declared war on “terrorist groups” and ordered a 60-day state of emergency.