Ecuador's president extends state of emergency to fight crime

COP26 in Glasgow
Ecuador's president, Guillermo Lasso, speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 2, 2021. Adrian Dennis/Pool via REUTERS

QUITO, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso has renewed a 30-day state of emergency in nine of the country's 24 provinces, as his government seeks to curb crime it says is connected to drug consumption and trafficking.

The renewal will keep military patrols on the streets in areas with high rates of homicide and other crimes associated with the drug trade.

Lasso had originally decreed a 60-day state of emergency last month. The country's constitutional court reduced the duration to 30 days and said the military can only support the police when their help is justified.

"The President Guillermo Lasso has renewed the state of emergency declared on October 18, 2021...for a period of 30 more days in the provinces of El Oro, Guayas, Santa Elena, Manabi, Los Rios, Esmeraldas, Santo Domingo, Pichincha and Sucumbios," Lasso's press office said late on Thursday.

In a decree published on Friday, Lasso said the measures taken during the state of emergency's first 30 days had been effective but have not neutralized the causes of rising crime.

The homicide rate fell from 1.84 per 100,000 inhabitants in September to 0.63 so far in November, the government said in the decree.

Security forces have conducted more than 230,000 operations over the last month, broken up 76 gangs, confiscated 16 tonnes of drugs and detained 7,000 people, the Interior Ministry said on Twitter.

Authorities said more than 70% of violent deaths in Guayas province, home to the city of Guayaquil, are connected to drug trafficking.

Violence has also climbed within the country's prisons. At least 62 prisoners died last week in Penitenciaria del Litoral jail in Guayaquil amid what the government described as gang disputes.

Lasso declared the prison system - long criticized for overcrowding, poor living conditions for inmates and violence - under a 60-day state of emergency in September, freeing up government funding and allowing for limited military assistance.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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