QUITO, Ecuador — President Guillermo Lasso has declared a state of emergency to confront drug trafficking and other crimes in Ecuador, saying the military and police would take to the streets to provide security.
In a national broadcast on Monday night, Mr. Lasso said, “There is only one enemy: drug trafficking.” He pointed out that Ecuador had gone from being a trafficking zone to a country that also consumed drugs.
“This is not only reflected in the amount of drugs consumed in our country, but in the number of crimes that today have a direct or indirect relationship with the sale of narcotics,” he said.
The state of emergency gives the authorities the power to restrict freedom of movement, assembly and association.
Mr. Lasso said drug trafficking had fueled an increase in homicides, burglaries, thefts of vehicles and goods, and robberies of people.
This year, there have been violent revolts in the country’s prisons because of drug violence, especially in Guayaquil. The clashes have ended in bloody massacres by inmates of rival mafia gangs linked to Mexican drug cartels. About 230 people have been killed in the prison compounds.
Over the weekend, a 13-year-old boy having ice cream with his family in Guayaquil was killed after he was caught in the crossfire between gunmen and a police officer.
The province of Guayas has seen a 70 percent increase in homicides, with 641 so far this year.
The president announced the creation of a legal defense unit to defend uniformed officers who, he said, had been sued for fulfilling their duty. Mr. Lasso said judges should “guarantee peace and order, not impunity and crime.”
“The national government will deploy all law enforcement to carry out a single mission: to restore security to citizens,” he added. “We will take the battle to the underworld wherever it hides.”