Two Suspects Arrested in Connection to Murder of Ecuadorian Prosecutor

Trent Barr
Trent Barr
Trent has years of experience and training in open source intelligence gathering and journalism. He specializes in Latin American, German, and Vatican affairs, with a broader interest in European politics. Trent serves as the Latin America Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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To Catch Killers:

Two suspects believed to be involved in the murder of an Ecuadorian prosecutor were arrested on Thursday. Following the arrest, authorities discovered rifles, handguns, ammunition, and clothing belonging to the transit agency in Guayaquil.

The prosecutor, Cesar Suarez, was killed on Wednesday following an ambush by the killers while driving in his vehicle through a neighborhood of Guayaquil, a port city located in southern Ecuador. Suárez was investigating the armed attack on a television channel on January 9th, which was a key moment in the recent Ecuadorian gang crisis. Investigators found 18 bullet holes in Suarez’s vehicle, while authorities estimate the attackers utilized a vehicle with three men inside in order to pull off the ambush.

“In the face of the murder of our colleague César Suárez, I will be emphatic: organized crime groups, criminals, and terrorists will not stop our commitment to Ecuadorian society,” Attorney General Diana Salazar said on Wednesday in a broadcast on X.

Further Police Operations:

Ecuadorian authorities launched a number of raids on prisons across the country on Thursday in an attempt to restore order in rebellious prisons following the ongoing war between the Ecuadorian government and various criminal gangs operating there.

Authorities successfully raided two prisons, one in Guayaquil, a port city located in southern Ecuador, and another in the capital of Quito, known as “El Inca.” The prison located in Guayaquil is thought to be the headquarters of drug gangs operating in the city.

Nearly 350 police officers took part in the raids, where they confiscated 36 bladed weapons, 80 cell phones, 18 plastic bags, presumably containing cocaine, 18 handicraft pipes, and 1 scale, among other prohibited objects. Authorities reported the raid was largely successful, as no disturbance to order within the prisons was documented.

The prison located in Guayaquil is thought to be the headquarters of gangs that operate in the region.

Authorities are expected to continue operations both in and outside prisons throughout Ecuador in order to reassert control and order throughout the country.

The Ecuadorian Gang Crisis:

The ongoing crisis began when infamous gang leader Jose “Fito” Macias escaped from the prison in Guayaquil. Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa declared a nationwide state of emergency, mobilizing the nation’s military and establishing a curfew in response to the escape, which may have prompted the violent reaction by gang members. Following the escape, riots broke out in prisons located in El Oro, Loja, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Azuay, and Pichincha, where 177 prison guards were taken hostage by prisoners. Ecuadorian police freed those held captive on Saturday. After the outbreak of violence, President Noboa issued a presidential decree that recognized “the existence of an internal armed conflict,” classifying the gangs as terrorist organizations.

Ecuadorian President, Daniel Noboa, assumed office in November with promises to reduce crime rates and bring back jobs to Ecuador (Photo – AFP)

The gangs classified as terrorist groups include Aguilas, AguilasKiller, Ak47, Caballeros Oscuros, ChoneKiller, Choneros, Corvicheros, Cartel de las Feas, Cubanos, Fatales, Ganster, Kater Piler, Lagartos, Latin Kings, Lobos, Los P.27, Los Tiburones, Mafia 18, Mafia Trébol, Patrones, R7, and Tiguerones.

Following the loss of control over prisons across Ecuador, footage showcasing the execution of prison guards surfaced on January 9th. It is unclear if further executions have taken place since the beginning of the crisis.

Shortly after the emergency was declared, gunmen stormed the studio of Ecuadorian television station TC during a live broadcast, taking hostages on Tuesday. The gunmen were seen pointing firearms directly at the captured news crew before police reasserted control over the station later that day. Further reports of gunmen were said to have been seen on the University of Guayaquil campus, prompting crowds to flee the area.

A Crusade Against Corruption:

While some believe the recent reaction from Ecuadorian gangs is in response to President Noboa’s mobilization, others point to the nation’s Attorney General, Diana Salazar, as a possible source of the gangs’ irritation.

Weeks before the crisis, Salazar had launched a multitude of raids against officials who thought of cooperating with the gangs, which included judges, politicians, prosecutors, police, and a former prison chief. Salazar stated that the investigation, dubbed “metastasis,” a term used to describe the spread of malignant growth, would surely be responded to with “an escalation of violence” from criminal organizations.

Diane Salazar, Ecuador’s current Attorney-General, has contributed to numerous anti-corruption cases throughout her career (Photo – dianasalazarmendez.com)

The investigation began in 2022 following the murder of drug lord Leandro Norero, who was killed while serving time in prison. Investigators searched Norero’s phone, discovering evidence of high-ranking state officials cooperating with Norero while handing out favors in exchange for money, gold, prostitutes, apartments, and other luxuries.

Following her investigation, over 75 raids were launched against those who cooperated with Norero, and dozens of suspects were arrested.