Ecuador’s Drug-Gang Kingpin, Adolfo Macías Vanishes From Prison

  • Authorities declare emergency, huge manhunt underway
Police and military officers enter the Litoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil on Sunday – Photo via Getty Images

Ecuador has declared a state of emergency after one of the country’s most dangerous criminals, Adolfo Macías vanished from his cell, and prison guards were overpowered and taken hostage amid riots at prisons across the country.

Already, a huge manhunt began on Monday as thousands of soldiers and police searched for Adolfo Macías, popularly known as ‘Fito’, who is the convicted leader of the powerful drug gang, Los Choneros.

The 44-year-old drug lord was reported missing on Sunday after he disappeared from the prison in the port city of Guayaquil where he was serving his sentence just before he was due to be transferred to a maximum security facility in the same city.

In response, President Daniel Noboa, who was elected in October, declared a 60-day state of emergency late on Monday, saying; “Time is up for those convicted of drug trafficking, assassination, and organised crime to tell the government what to do.”

Noboa, 35, who was elected in November on the promise to crack down on violent crime, said his government had instructed the army and police force to take action.

“We will not negotiate with terrorists and we will not rest until we have returned peace to Ecuadorians,” Noboa said in a message posted on social media.

In recent years, the South American country has experienced a nightmarish descent into violence, with successive governments proving unable to rein in organized crime factions. The disappearance of Macías, an influential figure who even recorded a “narcocorrido” music video behind bars, sent authorities scrambling to find out if he had escaped just as he did a decade ago from another jail.

Ecuador’s prison authority confirmed guards had been taken hostage in five jails across the country, without giving further details. Uncorroborated videos shared on social media showed prison wardens apparently held hostage by masked knife-wielding gang members, reading identical statements imploring President Noboa to “look out for their lives and security”.

“We are fathers, heads of households, who in many cases understand your actions, but we admonish you for not caring about those of us who are on the battlefield, facing the bullets,” read the statement in the videos, whose veracity could not be independently verified.

The General Commander of the National Police, César Zapata, told the media on Sunday night that Macías had disappeared from his cell and that they were investigating.

This is as Ecuador’s prosecutors’ office tweeted on Sunday that it was investigating the case as a probable “prisoner’s escape” adding on Monday that two officials had been arrested on suspicion of aiding Maciás’s escape.

Convicted of drug trafficking, murder, and organized crime, Macías had been serving a 34-year sentence since 2011 and he was at the Guayas 4 prison, known as La Regional, in Guayaquil, the port city at the centre of the vicious drugs war.

Los Choneros is one of the Ecuadorian gangs considered by authorities to be responsible for a surge in violence that reached a new level last year with the assassination of the presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio. Security analysts say the gang has links with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

Before his death, Villavicencio said the crime faction had threatened him, but so far authorities have not directly accused Macías or his group of being behind his murder.

Days after Villavicencio’s killing, Macías was moved out of La Regional to the maximum-security prison in the same large complex of detention facilities in Guayaquil, but he was returned to the same lighter-security prison within less than a month without any explanation. – With The Guardian report

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