Construction will commence on two new maximum-security prisons in the Ecuadorian provinces of Pastaza and Santa Elena.
The construction was announced last week by President Daniel Noboa. The announcement comes as Ecuador experiences a rapidly increasing wave of violence linked to drug trafficking and gang wars. Since coming to power in 2023, Noboa has pledged to crack down on gang activity and narcoterrorism, implementing similar policies to President Nayib Bukele in El Salvador.
The escape of Jose Adolfo Macias, the leader of Ecuador’s biggest gang, unleashed a wave of prison killings and kidnappings and forced Noboa to declare a 60-day national emergency. The violence continued, however, as armed gang members stormed a television studio, taking hostages during the live broadcast.
Given the worsening security situation, expect Ecuador to ramp up the crackdown on drug and gang activity and to move ahead with the plans to expand prison capacity. Given that violence was brewing before this week’s prison riots, constructing additional prisons is likely to quell violence only in the short-term. To fully address the rise in gang attacks, Ecuador will likely double down on directly confronting gangs, which was relatively successful in El Salvador.