Ecuador’s Youngest Mayor And Aide Shot Down At Midnight In Blow To Crackdown On Gangs.

Photo: expreso.ec. Ecuador's youngest mayor, Brigitte Garcia, has been assasinated at the age of 27. She was 26 when she was elected.
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Ecuador’s youngest-ever mayor was found shot to death Sunday, police said, as the South American country enters its third month of a state of emergency instituted by the government to crack down on soaring gang violence and intimidation.

Brigitte Garcia, the 27-year-old mayor of coastal San Vicente, was found dead in a car along with the municipality’s press officer, her chief aide Jairo Loor.

A motive for the killing is not known, but Ecuador has a recent history of drug gangs killing politicians.

Ms García, a nurse, had been elected mayor of San Vicente for the opposition Citizens’ Revolution party last year at the age of 26.

San Vicente, the county she governed, is located in the province of Manabi, in the northern coastal part of the country. The area is known for its good surfing conditions.

The coastal region has been particularly badly hit by violence linked to drug gangs which smuggle cocaine to lucrative markets in the US and Europe.

 

During the early hours of the morning “two people were identified inside a vehicle without vital signs, with gunshot wounds,” the Ecuadoran national police said on X, formerly Twitter.

Later, it added that the shots “were not fired from the outside of the vehicle but from the inside.” Investigators are still analyzing the route taken by the car, which had been rented.

In January, President Daniel Noboa imposed a state of emergency and declared the country in “a state of war” against gangs after a wave of violence following the prison escape of “Los Choneros” leader Adolfo “Fito” Macias.

Since then, the military has been deployed in the streets and taken control of the country’s prisons, where a string of gang riots in recent years has left some 460 people killed.

The government claims that its so-called “Phoenix Plan” has been successful at reducing the country’s soaring violence.

Security forces have carried out some 165,000 operations, made more than 12,000 arrests, killed 15 people considered “terrorists” and seized some 65 tons of drugs since January, according to official figures.

But several violent episodes were reported over the weekend, including the ambush of an army patrol in Sucumbios, a province on the Colombian border. One soldier was killed and three others wounded in the incident.

In the Andean city of Latacunga, a bomb threat prompted police to evacuate a stadium where a professional soccer championship game was being held.

After an inspection with the help of a trained dog, authorities found a suitcase in the parking lot of the stadium “containing five explosive charges,” which were detonated in a controlled manner, according to a police report.

The government said it would reinforce security controls following Garcia’s assassination, and local newspapers were reporting a heavy military presence in the area, with house to house searches.

Photo: Ecuador armed forces. House to house searches are taking place in San Vincente as law enforcement and the military search for the presumed assassins.

Once considered a bastion of peace in Latin America, Ecuador has been plunged into crisis after years of expansion by transnational cartels that use its ports to ship drugs to the United States and Europe.

Sources: VOA, Agence France Presse, expreso.ec.
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