April 2 (Reuters) – Ecuador has authorized the carrying and use of guns by civilians, President Guillermo Lasso said in a televised broadcast, citing rising crime and insecurity in the Andean country.
Lasso, a conservative former banker, has been fighting to tackle rising crime and violence in the streets and in prisons – where hundreds of inmates have been killed – which the government blames on drug trafficking gangs.
The beleaguered president also faces an impeachment process over allegations of embezzlement – accusations he has denied – after Ecuador’s top court gave the green light for hearings to go ahead.
“We have a common enemy: petty crime, drug trafficking, and organized crime,” Lasso said late on Saturday in a message also posted on Twitter.
To fight rising insecurity, the government will allow civilians to carry and use guns, he added.
“We’ve modified the decree that allows the possession and carrying of guns. In other words, in general terms … the possession and carrying of guns for civilian use in personal defense is authorized, in accordance with the requirements of law and regulations,” he said.
Civilians will also be allowed to carry and use cans of pepper spray, Lasso said.
The president also declared a state of emergency in the Pacific port city of Guayaquil and the neighboring towns of Duran and Samborondon, as well as the provinces of Santa Elena and Los Rios.
The state of emergency, which began on Sunday, will include a curfew in the affected regions from 1 a.m. until 5 in the morning.
Lasso did not say how long the state of emergency would last.