In Guayaquil, Ecuador’s main port city and economic center, which is under a state of emergency due to rising drug violence, at least 10 people were killed overnight when heavily armed assailants opened fire outside a shop, police said Sunday.
According to witnesses, the horrific incident took place at a repair shop in the southwest of the city while customers were inside drinking and watching a soccer match on TV.
General Willian Villarroel, the police chief for Guayaquil and the nearby cities of Duran and Samborondon, claimed that several guys arrived in a black truck, got out without saying anything, and started shooting with “long weapons.”
People wept and hugged one another as bodies lay in bloody pools on the sidewalk hours later, as police cordoned off the area, as AFP observed.
“I don’t feel comfortable living like this,” a neighbor told AFP while requesting anonymity. “We are unable to leave the house with our families or our kids.”
Three other individuals were hurt, including “unfortunately a five-year-old girl who is stable and is going to be operated on for shrapnel,” according to Villarroel.
He stated that according to the authorities, the slaughter was the outcome of “a fight between organized criminal groups—a fight for power and territory.”
Increase in violence
The office of Ecuador’s attorney general announced on Twitter that a preliminary investigation had been launched.
One of the country’s most violent hotspots for a turf battle between competing drug trafficking groups is Guayaquil.
The port city’s crucial starting point for drug shipments to the United States and Europe is its location on the Pacific coast.
The murder is the most recent in a recent wave of violence that has seen gang- and cartel-related killings, as well as several jail riots and massacres, as law enforcement targets groups and seizes drugs.
Police have not yet reported any arrests related to the most recent assault.
On Saturday night, they tweeted that “intelligence units” were working “to identify those responsible.”
Police did not release the names of the shooting victims, but they did reveal that five of them had prior convictions for crimes involving drugs and weapons.
President Guillermo Lasso’s administration has classified criminal organizations to be terrorist organizations in response to the rise in crime.
A state of emergency has been in effect in Guayaquil since April 1, which enables the military to conduct street patrols and enforce curfews.
Drug seizures have increased as the war against criminal gangs continues, but so have violent killings in the streets and in prisons.
Since 2021, more than 420 prisoners have died in fights among themselves, while outside of jails, the murder rate shot up in 2022, nearly doubling from 14 to 25 per 100,000 people, according to the police.
washing the blood away
Nine people were killed two weeks ago when 30 armed men opened fire in a fishing port in the northwest region of Esmeraldas.
Four more people were shot and killed on Saturday in that province, which is also in a state of emergency, according to local media.
Just in Guayaquil, Duran, and Samborondon, 555 homicides were reported in the first three months of this year.
One of the few reminders of the carnage from the previous night was a shredded yellow tape hanging from a door in Guayaquil as of late Sunday morning. No police or troops had yet arrived at the location.
AFP was spoken to by Yolanda, a 55-year-old businesswoman. “The owner woke up to clean the blood with a bucket of water,” she said. She requested that her real name be withheld.