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CAR BOMBS AND HOSTAGE SITUATIONS IN PRISONS ACROSS ECUADOR AND PARAMILITARY CLASHES IN COLOMBIA

August 31-September 6, 2023 | Issue 30 - SOUTHCOM and W/T

Virginia Martos Blanco, Isaiah Johnson, Arnold R. Koka, Agathe Labadi, Mateo Maya, Nicholas Novak, Martina Sclaverano

Alya Fathia Fitri, Editor; Evan Beachler, Senior Editor


Seized Drugs in Quito, Ecuador [1]


Date: August 31, 2023

Location: Quito, Ecuador

Parties involved: Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso; Ecuador; Ecuadorian government; Ecuador Interior Minister Juan Zapata; Ecuador Ministry of the Interior; National Police of Ecuador; National Comprehensive Care Service for Adults (SNAI); mayor of Quito Pabel Munoz; narcotics gang Los Choneros; Ecuadorian citizens

The event: Authorities believe that drug cartels were behind the explosion of two car bombs in Quito, one of which specifically targeted the headquarters of SNAI. The security situation took a turn for the worse when inmates seized control of more than 50 prison guards and seven police officers in various prisons throughout Ecuador. The events follow searches for weapons and illegal substances inside the SNAI-controlled prisons and the relocation of Los Choneros’ leaders to a maximum security prison.[2]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The Ecuadorian government will likely increase the frequency of weapons and illegal substances searches and security measures within prisons to avoid future hostage situations. Prisons will very likely change guard shifts to monitor inmate activity more closely and temporarily restrict visitors to prevent outside contact. Prison guards will likely tighten control over the inmates’ conduct and will likely reassess their use of force guidelines in employing non-lethal and lethal force in threatening scenarios to deter and isolate suspected leaders of revolts.

  • Los Choneros will very likely target judges or other political officials associated with SNAI facilities as further retaliation for relocations and sentencing. Local gangs will likely continue using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) in Quito because of their psychological effect and technical familiarity. Attacks will likely extend to inciting riots within the country’s prisons, increasing nationwide tensions, instilling fear in public opinion, and gaining leverage in negotiations with authorities over halting the revolts.


Date: September 4, 2023

Location: Puerto Rondon, Arauca, Colombia

Parties involved: Colombian government; Governor Wilinton Rodriguez; Colombian military; civilians near the Venezuelan border; National Liberation Army (ELN); Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC); FARC dissident subunit Central General Staff; Venezuelan government

The event: The death toll rose to nine people during clashes between the ELN and FARC dissident factions following the fourth round of peace talks between the Colombian government and ELN leadership two weeks prior. Despite rounds of negotiations, ELN and FARC dissident groups still clash over control of Arauca in Puerto Rondon, a hub for narcotraffic and illegal mining.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Violent clashes between the FARC and ELN will likely delay the peace talks with Colombia. The negotiations will likely include demands for justice from both sides regarding the deceased members. The territorial dispute over Puerto Rondon will likely be included in the demands, as clashes will very likely continue until either group defeats the other or the negotiations adjudicate it.

  • The Colombian and Venezuelan governments will likely conduct armed patrols as joint security operations near the border to protect civilians. There is a roughly even chance that cooperation will encourage Venezuela to reduce support to armed groups, enhancing diplomatic and political ties with Colombia. The decreased support to paramilitary groups will likely bring economic incentives to the “Venezuelan government,” which will very likely enforce a peace agreement. Decreased support will likely weaken ELN’s power and territorial control, likely pushing armed groups to attack law enforcement and Venezuelan representatives.

 

[2] Car bomb explosions and hostage-taking inside prisons underscore Ecuador’s fragile security, Associated Press, August 2023, https://apnews.com/article/ecuador-violence-car-bombs-crime-quito-guayaquil-a54e52662be79e2af5670344298a4153

[3] Nine Killed In Clashes Between Colombia Rebel Groups, Barron’s, September 2023, https://www.barrons.com/news/nine-killed-in-clashes-between-colombia-rebel-groups-governor-a4ee5102

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