Ecuadorian voters back Daniel Novoa’s new safety measures

Ecuadorians on Sunday voted to give the new president more powers to combat the country’s epidemic of drug-related gang violence, supporting his tough stance on security and holding him back in office, officials said. He said that he was able to get a glimpse of how things will be done as he aims to achieve this goal. next year’s election.

President Daniel Novoa, 36, the heir to the banana empire, took office in November after an election season marked by a surge in violence to levels not seen in decades. In January, he declared an “internal armed conflict” and ordered the military to “neutralize” gangs in the country. The measures have allowed soldiers to patrol the streets and Ecuador’s prisons, many of which are under gang control.

In a referendum on Sunday, Ecuadorians voted in favor of legislating a stronger military presence and extending prison sentences for certain crimes related to organized crime, among other security measures. On Sunday night, with about 20% of the votes counted, voters rejected other proposals on the ballot, but Ecuador’s election authorities said the trend toward approving security measures was “irreversible.” he declared.

Novoa declared victory on social media. “I apologize for jumping on a victory that I should not have celebrated,” he said. I wrote to X.

A flood of violence between international criminal organizations and local gangs has turned Ecuador, a country of 17 million people, into a major player in the global drug trade. Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians have taken refuge on the US-Mexico border.

Experts see Sunday’s vote as an indicator of how strongly the public supports Novoa’s stance on crime. “What is clear is that the people are saying yes to the security model,” said Ecuadorian political analyst Caroline Avila. She said voters had “high expectations” that the crime problem would be “solved”.

Mr. Novoa is expected to seek re-election for a second term in February, and has a high approval rating, although his approval rating has fallen recently. He took office after his predecessor, Guillermo Lasso, faced impeachment proceedings on embezzlement charges and called for early elections. Mr. Novoa’s term will run until May 2025, the remainder of Mr. Lasso’s term.

Some human rights groups have criticized Novoa’s anti-crime strategy as going too far, saying it has led to abuses in prisons and on the streets. Still, analysts say most Ecuadorians seem willing to accept Noboa’s strategy if they think it will keep them safe.

“Noboa is currently one of the most popular presidents in the region,” said Graeldis González, who researches Ecuador for the International Crisis Group. “He is now trying to use his level of popularity to jump into the presidential race.”

Novoa’s military deployment reduced violence and provided a precarious sense of security, but that stability was short-lived.137 murders, kidnappings and extortions occurred in Ecuador during this month’s Easter holidays Increased has.

Two weeks ago, Noboa took the unusual step of arresting an Ecuadorian politician who had taken refuge in the Mexican embassy in Quito, in what experts called a violation of the international treaty on the sanctity of the diplomatic profession. I’m here. The move drew condemnation across the region and sent a message in line with Novoa’s tough approach against violence and corruption.

Noboa said Mexico had abused the immunity and privileges given to diplomatic missions by sending police officers to the embassy to arrest former Vice President Jorge Glass, who was convicted of corruption. Mr. Novoa said Mr. Glass is not eligible for protection because he is a convicted felon.

Political analysts said the attack and the military deployment were aimed at demonstrating Mr. Novoa’s tough stance on crime and impunity.However poll show Although Novoa’s approval rating has declined in recent months, it remains high at 67%.

Voter turnout on Sunday was 72%, according to the country’s election authorities. Analysts considered this low for a country where voting is compulsory and turnout typically exceeds 80%.

Just as voters headed to the polls, authorities announced the killing of a prison warden in the coastal state of Manabi, a hub for transnational crime, in another reminder of the surge in violence.

Some of Novoa’s proposals not related to security were rejected on Sunday. Ecuadorians voted against a bill that would legalize hourly employment contracts, which are currently prohibited. Unions argue that employers can use these to violate workers’ rights and effectively pay them lower salaries than required by law. A proposal to allow international arbitration of commercial disputes was also rejected.

But analysts said the overall results provided a strong mandate for Mr. Novoa. González said this “helps make the case that the government needs more time in power to continue these changes and reforms in the general fight against organized crime.”

The referendum result is binding, and Parliament has 60 days to pass it into law.

Some analysts said the referendum result had more to do with Novoa’s popularity than with the effectiveness of security measures.

“We don’t vote for this question. Rather, we vote for who asked the question,” said Fernando, who studies violence and drug trafficking at the Department of Latin American Social Sciences, a regional research and analysis group. Carrion said.

He added that measures such as increasing prison sentences are likely to exacerbate problems of overcrowding and violence in prisons.

Despite the chaotic weeks leading up to the vote, some voters said they were undeterred.

“I will vote ‘yes’ in this referendum because I am convinced that it is the only way to bring about change for Ecuador and that we can all have a better future. ” said Susana Chezin, 62, who lives in the south. The city of Loja.

“He is bringing positive change to the country to fight crime and drug trafficking,” she said of Novoa.

Some believed the referendum question did not go far enough to address the country’s security insecurity.

“We’re still in a vicious cycle of focusing on the symptoms and not the causes,” said Juan Diego del Pozo, 31, a photographer from Quito. “There are no questions aimed at solving structural problems such as inequality. My vote is a resounding ‘no’ to all questions. ”

Tully Ponce I contributed a report from Guayaquil, Ecuador. Jose Maria Leon Cabrera Originally from Quito, Ecuador.

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