Ecuador votes to approve tightened security measures amid wave of violence News
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Ecuador votes to approve tightened security measures amid wave of violence

Ecuadorians voted to approve a number of security proposals from President Daniel Noboa on Sunday as the South American country experiences a surge in violence that has claimed the lives of multiple public officials, including a presidential candidate.

Among the proposals was a proposition to amend Ecuador’s constitution to allow the country’s armed forces to fight organized crime alongside the police. Voters also considered four additional proposals, including one to allow the extradition of Ecuadorians from the country, another to establish first- and second-instance constitutional courts to clear judicial backlogs, a third to allow the country to send disputes with investors to international arbitration, and a fourth to recognize fixed-term employment contracts.

The vote also included a “popular consultation,” containing six nonbinding proposals. Among them was a proposal to increase penalties for crimes such as murder, human trafficking, drug trafficking and arms trafficking. The consultation also included a proposal to have inmates sentenced for gun crimes, financing of terrorism, and extortionate kidnapping, among other offenses, serve their whole sentence in prison.

All proposals in both the referendum and popular consultation garnered at least 60 percent of voters in favor, except for the international arbitration and fixed-term employment proposals, which were defeated by 65 and 69 percent margins respectively.

President Noboa, who promised to hold a security referendum during his campaign, lauded the favorable result, saying on social media:

Thank you Ecuador for your broad support for a security policy and fight against corruption that is producing results such as today’s capture of Colón Pico. Thanks to the bravery of Ecuadorians, dignity has been restored to our country. We are experiencing difficult situations, but I am certain that we are going in the right direction. Ecuador has spoken, our next step will be to continue working even harder than yesterday.

President Noboa’s crackdown is a response to a flare-up of violence that has destabilized the country. One incident in January made headlines worldwide after gunmen took TV reporters hostage live on-air in the city of Guayaquil, days after a powerful gang leader escaped from one of Ecuador’s prisons. The hostage-taking prompted Noboa to declare the existence of an “internal armed conflict” in the country. A prosecutor investigating the incident was shot and killed a week after the attack.

Five months prior, anticorruption presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was assassinated while leaving a campaign rally. A number of people accused in relation to Villavincenio’s killing, allegedly connected to the “Los Lobos” gang, are slated to go on trial.

Several Ecuadorian officials have been slain in recent years. On Wednesday, Mayor José Sánchez of Ecuador’s Camilo Ponce Enriquéz locality was killed. In March, Ecuador’s youngest mayor, Brigitte García, and her communications director were found shot dead in a car. Incidents like these have prompted 45 mayors across the country to request police protection.

Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously reported that Ecuadorian voters approved proposals to approve recognize fixed-term employment contracts and international arbitration. The proposals were in fact defeated.