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2.27.24 | "Ecuador: Reconfigurations under the Shadow of Insecurity" (summary and pictures)

Ecuador Discussion Panel. February 27, 2024. Flyer

LACSI's discussion panel titled, "Ecuador: Reconfigurations under the Shadow of Insecurity," took place last Tuesday, February 27th, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Casa Amarilla and online. 

Daniela Chacón (Fundación TANDEM and Quito Cómo Vamos), who joined remotely from Quito, Ecuador, and Louisiana Lightsey (Ph.D. candidate, Anthropology, UGA), in person, shared their views on the origins, responses, and threats of the security crisis that, in words of Chacón has now "metastasized." The event counted with the presence of UGA faculty and students as well as members of the general public among the audience. 

Chacón, who served as Vice-Mayor of Quito between 2014 and 2016, started by offering a general overview of the structural causes and some of the impacts of the crisis. Regarding the causes, she highlighted the strategic geographical location of Ecuador (bordering with Colombia and Peru, two of the major cocaine producers in the world) as well as the shifts produced in key policy areas and state institutions. 

For instance, the 2010 immigration policy reforms introduced in Ecuador invited global organized crime to operate in the country. And, within the last years, legal professionals that defended the members of criminal organizations have infiltrated the higher decision levels of the country's judicial system. 

Additionally, Chacón attributed the security crisis to the political instability of the last decade, and to the Colombian Peace Process, which has led the members of guerrilla organizations to move and become active in different Ecuadorian regions. 

In terms of impacts, Chacón argued that drug-related violence has “metastasized."  Within the last year, violence has become overt and extended even to highly populated areas of Ecuador's centers of power. Case in point, the murder of former journalist and, at the time, presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, at rush hour in a busy street of Quito in August of 2023.

Louisiana Lightsey, a former Fulbright fellow and a current Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Anthropology at UGA, on her side, based her analysis on first-hand observations, accounts, and public statements by national and regional level Indigenous organizations in Ecuador. 

Citing the views and public statements of Indigenous leaders and organizations from the western region of Pastasa - where she carried out fieldwork for 12 months -, as well as the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, CONAIE, Lightsey emphasized Indigenous peoples' vocal condemnation of the neoliberal policies that recent state administrations have re-introduced in the country. 

From these organizations' standpoints, neoliberal policies have impoverished Indigenous peoples, deepened inequalities, and continued previous administrations' disregard for increasing environmental protections to the inhabitants of Indigenous territories across the country. Moreover, the absent or limited institutional state control of these areas has led to the growing presence of drug trafficking organizations, often operating alongside, and sometimes engaging, in illegal deforestation and logging, among other practices.

Lightsey concluded by stressing that Indigenous organizations fear not only the potential growth of drug-related violence, but, potentially, a generalized suppression of democratic liberties that the current government may justify by claiming the urgency of implementing a tough-on-crime approach to insecurity and drug trafficking. 

Both presenters, finally, coincided in that drug trafficking organizations are taking advantage of the structural inequalities that affect Ecuador by recruiting youth, especially among those who belong to the most vulnerable socioeconomic groups in urban and rural areas of the country. 


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