Ecuador announces state of emergency after mayor shot to death

The country is also contending with violence within its prison system as deadly clashes erupt between gangs.

A casket, draped in the Ecuadorian flag, is surrounded by mourners and guards. A man's face is shown on an easel.
The coffin of Agustín Intriago, mayor of Manta, is guarded by firefighters on July 24 [Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo]

Ecuador has announced a state of emergency in three provinces after a shooting left two people dead, including the mayor of a major city.

In announcing the measure on Monday, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso paid tribute to the two victims, Agustín Intriago and Ariana Estefanía Chancay.

“No mother should have to bury her children and no child should grow up without their parent, much less because of a criminal attack,” Lasso wrote on Twitter. “Today Ecuador is in mourning.”

Lasso added that a suspect in the shooting has been taken into custody while investigations were under way.

The shooting took place on Sunday in the port city of Manta, where Intriago, 38, had recently begun a second term as mayor in May. He had been reelected in February.

Chancay, a young football player for the Las Dragonas team, had approached the mayor to talk when the shooting broke out, according to the newspaper El Universo. She also died from her wounds.

Four additional people were injured in the attack, as security officers around the mayor returned fire. No motive has been released for the shooting.

A woman, wearing black, brings a bouquet of white flowers. A line of armed guards in helmets stands in front of her.
Mourners arrive to remember the late mayor of Manta at his funeral on Monday [Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo]

Prison clashes erupt over weekend

The shooting was a particularly high-profile crime in a country that continues to struggle with gang violence.

This past weekend, for instance, saw clashes erupt in the La Litoral penitentiary, the largest prison in the country. The violence began on Saturday afternoon and continued through the weekend, leaving at least six dead and 11 injured.

Authorities blamed the violence on rival gangs. Located in Guayaquil, the country’s biggest port city, the prison is one of the country’s most notorious.

In September 2021, La Litoral experienced one of the deadliest prison riots in the country’s history, with approximately 120 people killed. More than 400 people have died in Ecuador’s prisons since that year.

Monday also saw an estimated 90 prison guards be taken hostage in the provinces of Cotopaxi, Azuay, Cañar, El Oro and Napo.

Groups inside thirteen of the country’s prisons and detention centres have also declared a hunger strike, though authorities have not revealed the reasons for the demonstration.

A line of soldiers stand in front of a one-story blue building.
Soldiers retake control of La Litoral penitentiary in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sunday [Cesar Munoz/AP Photo]

Coastal cities like Manta and Guayapil have been hotspots for turf wars as gangs seek to transport drugs from Ecuador to destinations overseas. In April, 10 people were killed and three wounded, including a 13-year-old girl, in an attack also credited to gang violence.

In his statement on Monday, President Lasso said the recent deaths “hurt us and, at the same time, galvanise us as a country”.

“Impunity is a negative message for society,” he wrote. The provinces of Manabí, Los Ríos and parts of Guayas were put under a curfew as part of the state of emergency.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies