A fourth state of emergency has been declared in the violence-racked city of Guayaquil after a deadly bomb attack killed at least five people and injured 17 people.
Ecuador's interior minister, Patricio Carrillo, described Sunday s explosion as a declaration of war on the state by organised crime in the country's largest city and has been classified as a terrorist act. Security forces will be mobilised for a month and allowed to make home inspections.
Images from the scene showed the front of houses torn off and cars smeared in blood with their windows blown in the working-class Cristo de Consuelo neighbourhood. According to authorities, eight houses and two cars were destroyed in the early morning blast.
The bomb attack marks a dramatic increase in the violent tactics used by criminal gangs in Ecuador's largest city, which has seen an increase in murders as rival gangs try to dominate the cocaine traffickers routes to Europe and the US.
The violence between Colombia and Peru, the world's biggest cocaine producer, has resulted in a number of murders, including decapitated bodies hanging from pedestrian bridges and six brutal prison massacres in which more than 400 inmates have been killed since February 2021, according to a shocking report by the world spokesman for the country.
Since the decree 11 raids have been carried out in the city and five people have been arrested, Carrillo told reporters on Monday.
Carrillo tweeted after the blast, referring to the explosives used in the act, which concerns us most, the capacity the gang now have to build elements in a homemade way. We are investigating how they are reaching these capabilities to commit barbaric acts. The country has 145 bomb attacks this year, which is the deadliest so far in the country, half of which occurred in Guayaquil, according to government figures.
In an open letter posted by Lasso, who took office last year as President, Cynthia Viteri wrote that criminal gangs have become a government within a government in Ecuador.
She wrote that we have seen hangings on bridges, planned murders on motorcycles, rapes in shopping malls and school buses. The deaths of more than a dozen children from stray bullets was among the extortion charged to innocent shopkeepers. A president is the protector of his people, but we have not seen a single safe step to combat crime, the letter continues. Who is in charge, organized crime or an enslaved government? On Twitter, Lasso said the enemy was narco-terrorism not the government, and that in countries that have been through these painful experiences the authorities act in unity and not division. However, he has faced mounting criticism because the violence shows no signs of abating.
According to Insight Crime, Guayaquil was one of the 50 most violent cities in the world in 2021. It is the first time that an Ecuadorian city has appeared on the list.