Guayaquil, Ecuador – César Suárez, the organized crime prosecutor spearheading the investigation into a brazen attack by gang members on an Ecuadorian TV station last week, was assassinated in broad daylight on Tuesday in the city of Guayaquil. The murder of the prominent prosecutor marks a dangerous new escalation in violence and intimidation by organized crime groups in Ecuador.
Prosecutor Gunned Down in Busy Intersection
According to Ecuador’s Attorney General’s office, Suárez was intercepted and shot multiple times by two assailants on motorcycles while he was driving through Guayaquil. The attack occurred at a busy intersection near the headquarters of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in plain view of bystanders. Suárez was rushed to a nearby hospital but succumbed to his wounds.
Authorities have arrested two suspects in the murder, José A. C.M. and Washington V.Z., who were allegedly part of a local gang called the “Cucarachas” (Cockroaches). The suspects were apprehended in possession of firearms matching the caliber of bullets that killed Suárez.
While the motives behind Suárez’s murder are still under investigation, authorities believe the Cucarachas gang ordered the hit in retaliation for the prosecutor’s work investigating organized crime and the recent attack at Teleamazonas TV station.
Audacious Attack at TV Station Provoked Public Outcry
Just last week, Suárez had opened an official investigation into a brazen attack by over 20 gang members wielding firearms and grenades on the Teleamazonas TV station in northern Quito. The assailants assaulted the building for over 20 minutes, firing over 50 rounds and holding station employees and guests hostage live on air.
The shocking incident was broadcast across Ecuador, provoking public condemnation and demands for a strong government response against organized crime networks which have increasingly asserted their domination through graphic displays of violence.
Suárez was selected to lead the high-profile investigation given his reputation for fearlessly prosecuting dangerous organized crime groups.
|Type of Attack
|January 11th, 2023
|Teleamazonas TV Station, Quito
|Dynamite, firearms, grenades
|0 deaths, 2 minor injuries
His murder has raised questions about the ability of Ecuadorian authorities to stand up to violent criminal groups and protect those daring to bring them to justice.
Ecuador Faces Surge in Organized Crime-Driven Violence
The attacks underline the weakened state of rule of law in Ecuador and the growing power of heavily-armed organized crime groups effectively controlling certain regions of the country.
Homicides in Ecuador have risen over 85% since 2014, with nearly 1,500 murders recorded last year – a homicide rate on par with Mexico.
|Homicides in Ecuador
|Number of homicides
|Homicides per 100k population
The coastal province of Guayas, containing Ecuador’s largest city of Guayaquil, has been especially hard hit, with over 500 homicides recorded last year.
Criminal groups have taken advantage of massive overcrowding in Ecuador’s prisons, using them as bases to coordinate drug trafficking and extortion operations across the country. Just one day before Suárez’s brazen murder, a squad of heavily-armed soldiers raided Guayaquil’s Litoral Penitentiary, Ecuador’s largest prison, in an attempt to crack down on organized crime and confiscated multiple firearms and ammunition from gangs operating freely behind bars.
International Outrage and Support
Leaders across Latin America and the world moved swiftly to condemn Suárez’s killing and express solidarity with Ecuador.
Peru’s president demanded a rigorous investigation, while Colombia’s leader Ivan Duque spoke to Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso to offer security assistance. U.S. Secretary of State Susan Rice called the murder “a direct attack on the rule of law that endangers Ecuadorian democracy.”
Ecuador’s National Assembly held an emergency session, with legislators authorizing increased funding for witness protection programs while calling for reforms to the country’s penal system to cut off gang activity. Civil society groups are organizing a national march against violence next week in Quito to protest organized crime and honor slain figures like prosecutor Suárez.
Future Investigations at Risk
While Ecuador has arrested suspects in Suárez’s assassination, ongoing investigations he was overseeing into groups like the Tiguerones gang may now be in jeopardy. Prosecutors working organized crime cases often rely on information from insider informants who are unlikely to come forward given the stark retaliation against Suárez.
Closing these investigations would represent a major win for violent criminal groups and set a dangerous precedent empowering them to murder public officials and journalists bringing their activities to light without repercussions.
As outrage over brazen attacks like the Teleamazonas hostage crisis continues to grow amongst citizens, the government will be under intense pressure to control the rising gang violence through major security crackdowns. However, the failure to prevent retaliation killings like prosecutor Suárez’s murder has severely undermined public confidence.
Without meaningful reforms to root out prison-based gang activity coupled with a strengthened witness protection program, Ecuador risks becoming overwhelmed by organized crime networks bent on asserting their dominance through graphic violence and intimidation against civil society. Those still daring to investigate groups like the Tiguerones will be forced to reckon with the fate of prosecutors like César Suárez, gunned down in the very streets he swore to clean up.
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