Foreign Affairs service advises against travelling to Ecuador as drug violence explodes
The Federal Public Service (FPS) Foreign Affairs is advising against all non-essential travel to Ecuador. The latest update to the travel advisory on the Belgian government agency's website describes the situation in the country as "highly unpredictable".
Ecuador's president, Daniel Noboa, declared a 60-day state of emergency on Monday after notorious drug lord Adolfo Macias, known as Fico, escaped from prison. Violence in the country has since escalated.
The Foreign ministry refers to this violence, including in the capital, Quito, in its recommendation. Police officers have been kidnapped, criminals have escaped from several prisons, riots have broken out, prison guards have been taken hostage and vehicles have been set on fire.
On Tuesday, armed men entered the premises of TC Television in the port city of Guayaquil during a live broadcast. At least 10 people have died since, including two police officers, and 70 others have been arrested.
Link to Belgium
Drug-related violence has exploded in the South American country in recent years. It was the defining issue during the 2023 elections. Less than two weeks before the vote, candidate Fernando Villavicencio was assassinated. Villavicencio had received several death threats from gangs beforehand.
The country's drug trade also has links with Belgium, with more than half of the cocaine seized in the port of Antwerp-Bruges coming from Ecuador. Last February, Belgian Interior minister Annelies Verlinden and her Ecuadorian counterpart, Juan Zapata, agreed to step up cooperation in the fight against organised crime.
Ecuadorean security forces patrol the area around the main square and presidential palace © PHOTO STRINGER / AFP