Ecuadorian Gang Leader Captured and Deported From Panama

A leader of Los Chone Killers, a violent Ecuadorian gang in conflict with the infamous Los Choneros gang, which is under the leadership of escaped criminal Jose “Fito” Macias, was captured in Panama and deported to Ecuador, where he will face numerous charges on Saturday.

Leader of Brutal Criminal Organization

The leader, identified as “Negro Tulio,” has been accused of numerous acts of terrorism in accordance with the President of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa’s, declaration of a state of emergency and classification of numerous gangs active within the country as terrorist organizations. These crimes include the planning of numerous attacks, including two separate attacks utilizing explosive devices that left two police officers dead in Duran; the attempted assassination of Luis Chonillo, the mayor of Duran; the assassination of two prosecutors by the names of Angel Palacios and Cesar Suarez; alongside charges of robbery and illicit association.

Tulio pictured with two Panamanian police officers. (Photo – Panama National Police)

Tulio has been identified as a high-value target by Ecuadorian authorities due to these crimes, with authorities placing a blue INTERPOL notice on the suspected terrorist’s wife, which ultimately led to his arrest. On Tuesday, authorities announced that Tulio will be held for 90 days while investigations unfold and a court date is scheduled.

Alongside Tulio, the gang leader’s wife, who was identified as Alexandra Germania E., was captured due to her alleged assistance in Tulio’s criminal activities. Authorities believe Germania managed the financial accounts of the criminal organization and organized the purchase of arms, munitions, and explosives used in the group’s operations. The capture of the two accused criminals was the result of an operation conducted by Panamanian authorities dubbed “Rocket,” an operation wherein authorities raided the couple’s high-end home in Panama City, resulting in the arrests and the seizure of over $9,000 USD in cash and assets.

Previously a subdivision within Los Choneros, Los Chone Killers now make up a key portion of an alliance of gangs opposed to Los Choneros known as New Generation, which has a presence in 16 of the 24 provinces of Ecuador. Los Chone Killers likely broke free of Los Choneros in 2021 when New Generation launched a series of attacks against Los Choneros, leading to the killings of a number of the gang’s senior leadership. The losses of Los Choneros’ leadership alongside the unity displayed by New Generation effectively sidelined Los Choneros from Ecuador’s criminal underworld, with New Generation becoming the dominant force across the country.

New Generation has made key allies in Mexico, building close relations with the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG), according to Insight Crime. This alliance may have been the catalyst of the conflict, as Los Choneros maintains close ties with the Sinaloa Cartel, one of CJNG’s largest rivals. Others have suggested that New Generation’s alliance with the CJNG came after the assassination of Los Choneros’ leadership, theorizing that the alliance with the CJNG was made for convenience rather than loyalty. After the killings of Los Choneros’ leadership in 2021, the Ecuadorian government sought to curb gang violence within the penal system by separating the various gangs active within prison. This move, while effective at curbing violence in prison, further strengthened New Generation, allowing gangs to plan and commit criminal actions with little to no interference in a similar fashion seen in El Salvador’s MS-13 and Barrio-18 gangs.

An Ongoing Struggle

The capture of Tulio alongside his wife demonstrates Ecuador’s continued struggle against gangs active within the country and how various criminal organizations’ leadership can manage operations from foreign countries, removing the significant threat of capture by authorities.

Gang violence has skyrocketed in Ecuador following the escape of Los Choneros leader Jose “Fito” Macias, who escaped prison in January. Following his escape, President Daniel Noboa declared a national state of emergency and mobilized the nation’s military, which in turn is believed to have led Ecuador’s gangs to declare war against the government. Gangs began launching a series of attacks against both civilians and authorities, likely in protest of the president’s mobilization. Riots in prisons across the country soon broke out, with prisoners capturing 177 guards and other prison staff before releasing video of an execution of one such guard. 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.

A soldier stands guard during a security operation at a prison complex in Guayaquil, Ecuador (Photo – Marcos Pin / AFP)

The gangs classified as terrorists include Los Choneros and two gangs within New Generation, Los Chone Killers and the Tiguerones, among others.

Noboa has continued operations with the intent to bring an end to the nation’s internal security struggles, recently passing a number of security reforms in a national referendum that sought to grant the president more power to fight against the various criminal gangs within Ecuador. Between 63 and 70 percent of voters voted in favor of the security measures, some of which include the authorization to expand patrols by military and police units, prevent parole for crimes like kidnapping or terrorism financing, extradite wanted criminals, establish longer sentences for violent crimes, tougher gun restrictions in regions nearby prisons, and authorize the military to use confiscated weapons.

President Daniel Noboa during a national referendum. (Photo – Mauricio Torres/EFE)

Operations conducted by Ecuadorian authorities have also borne fruit, with authorities announcing the capture of a key leader in Los Choneros on Thursday while a number of other operations conducted by authorities have met success. The leader, identified as “Mongolo,” allegedly directed and authorized numerous criminal acts within the gang’s structure, while authorities credited his arrest to information obtained from the arrest of an associate identified as Kerly T, who had previously lived with Mongolo.

Violence continues to be a major issue within Ecuador, as the security situation within the country seems to have no end. Currently, Fito, who is often seen as the catalyst for the outbreak of violence, remains at large, with authorities working to uncover the fugitive’s location and bring his recapture.

Trent Barr
Trent Barr
Trent Barr is an Intelligence Analyst for Atlas News. He has years of experience and is trained in open source intelligence gathering. Trent Barr specializes in Latin American, German, and Vatican affairs while also holding an interest in Europe as a whole.


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