Durán, the city of Ecuador kidnapped by organized crime

Posted on
Duran, Ecuador
A man cries near a body covered on the ground, in Durán, Ecuador, on July 20, 2023.Dolores Ochoa (AP)

A five-year-old boy was doing his schoolwork when bullets crossed the window of his house and hit him. Some individuals shot at the facilities of a pharmaceutical company 90 times. A baby died in her mother’s arms when she was shot in the head. A school student was found with signs of torture in a ditch. One of the members of the Durán Municipal Council, Bolívar Vera, was kidnapped and murdered. All this happened in one week in Durán, a city on the Ecuadorian coast that only a bridge separates from Guayaquil and where criminal gangs do not allow the State to govern. The drug trafficker has taken over the city.

The mayor of Durán, Luis Chonillo, has only been able to enter the Municipality building twice and on neither occasion did he manage to reach his office because he had to be evacuated due to threats from individuals on motorcycles surrounding the facilities. On May 15, while the country’s 220 mayors celebrated their inauguration in their cities and installed the first session of the Municipal Council, Chonillo fled from a scene of terror where an attempt was made to assassinate him. He emerged unharmed from the attack, but two police officers who were guarding him and a street vendor who was working nearby died. “All our officials have been threatened, they file complaints, but there is no result, they have not even been given security and many others have resigned,” explains the mayor from hiding. He has rarely appeared in public with a bulletproof vest, a helmet and a group of police officers, which “is not enough for the level of risk I have,” he adds.

A child watches from behind the grating of a store as a soldier stands guard at a security post, in Durán, on August 14, 2023.
A child watches from behind the grating of a store as a soldier stands guard at a security post, in Durán, on August 14, 2023.Martin Mejia (AP)

For security reasons, he does not stay in the same place for more than one night, he has had to leave the country, the telephone line changes constantly and to get to him you have to go through several officials. He hardly gives interviews to the press because any word could put his life even more at risk. In four months of management, the municipal councilors have not been able to meet in person, the debates are by video call, where they make decisions such as declaring the canton in emergency and demanding real intervention from the Government, beyond the presence of police and military as expected. did the president, Guillermo Lasso, under the latest state of emergency decree that he signed on July 24.

Violence in Durán, with 315,000 inhabitants, began to boil over three years ago when a war broke out between criminal gangs for control of the territory, which is used as a collection point for drugs arriving from Colombia to later be distributed to the ports. from the country. Durán is surrounded by rivers through which large vessels navigate and enter the port of Guayaquil, the largest in Ecuador and where more than 50% of the drugs intended for export are seized.

The monopoly of crimes such as drug trafficking, extortion and kidnappings is disputed by the Chone Killers and Latin Kings gangs, and in some sectors others such as Las Águilas appear, which operate in the area known as Cerro Las Cabras, where even some children cannot go. to school because they could be attacked by opposing gangs. Criminals have delimited the borders of the neighborhoods to turn them into their fortresses: anyone who dares to enter is killed. With videos on social networks, the gangs brag about the control they have in the streets, their weapons and the training of children and young people to turn them into hitmen.

Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.


Soldiers search motorcyclists at a security check carried out by the army in Durán, on August 14, 2023.
Soldiers search motorcyclists at a security check carried out by the army in Durán, on August 14, 2023.Martin Mejia (AP)

The municipality has asked the Lasso Government for concrete actions without obtaining results. “There has been no real intervention, it is not just the public force, it is also the social axis intervening,” says Chonillo, who has requested that the Ministries have a greater presence in the neighborhoods. He admits that projects in the city advance at a slow pace due to bureaucracy and violence. The works are paralyzed because the contractors are extorted, they ask for priceless “vaccines.” Criminal mafias take over everything, even the most precious resource that is scarce in Durán, such as water. Not even 40% of the population receives drinking water through pipes and the operators of the valves that distribute the resource have been kidnapped. “They rob them, they beat them, sometimes they have kept them tied up there so they can have control of the valves,” describes the mayor. “The Municipal Government is the first authority within the city and should have the guarantees of its proper functioning and it does not have them.”

Durán was born as a city recently, 37 years ago it was separated as a rural parish from Guayaquil to become a canton. But its name is in the country’s history books because the last section of the railroad was built there in 1892 that linked the mountains with the Ecuadorian coast. However, the El Niño phenomenon destroyed several of the sections and took away Durán’s dream of being a city where commerce and tourism converge. Even so, it managed to become a pole of industrial development by being so close to Guayaquil, taking advantage of the lack of space that the Guayaquil industry demanded. But the administrations did not know how to take advantage of that potential and, like most towns in Ecuador, Durán grew in a disorderly manner, with irregular settlements and without basic services where 67% of its population is below the poverty line. “This disorder and chaos has been the breeding ground for the establishment of criminal organizations,” acknowledges Mayor Chonillo, who has asked the Government to return to virtual classes because no one can ensure the lives of the children who go to school in Durán. . The Government has not yet responded to the request.

Follow all the international information on Facebook y Twitteror our weekly newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *