Ecuador opens investigation into explosives sent to news media

Local journalists report receiving envelopes filled with small explosives, disguised as commonplace electronic devices.

Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso sitting in front of a flag. He is wearing glasses.
Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso has blamed the rising violence in his country on drug traffickers [File: Mayela Lopez/Reuters]

Journalists at various news outlets in Ecuador have been sent envelopes containing electronic devices fitted with explosives, the attorney general’s office said on Monday, adding it has opened a terrorism investigation.

The envelopes all had similar characteristics and the same contents and will therefore be investigated jointly, the attorney general’s office said in a statement, without naming the media organisations affected.

One of the devices partly exploded at Ecuavisa television in Guayaquil when journalist Lenin Artieda plugged the device into his computer. He suffered minor injuries, according to police.

“It’s a military-type explosive, but very small capsules,” said Xavier Chango, the national head of forensic science, referring to the explosive sent to Ecuavisa.

The police carried out a controlled detonation of a device sent to the news department of TC Television, also in Guayaquil, prosecutors said earlier on Monday.

Fundamedios, a regional freedom of expression advocacy group, said a third television station and radio outlet in Quito had also received envelopes with explosives.

The government said it would defend freedom of expression in the country.

“Any attempt to intimidate journalism and freedom of expression is a loathsome action that should be punished with all the rigor of justice,” it said in a statement.

President Guillermo Lasso has blamed rising violence, including within the prison system, on competition between drug trafficking gangs for territory and control.

Ecuador is used as a transit point for cocaine being moved to the United States and Europe.

Television channel Teleamazonas said one of its journalists had received an anonymous envelope on Thursday and — upon opening it — had discovered a device, which the police confirmed contained explosives.

Source: Reuters