Ecuador until recently was known as a haven of relative peace in its region, but it is in the process of being transformed by surging crime. The country’s homicide rate is now among the highest in Latin America; a presidential candidate campaigning on an anti-crime platform was assassinated in 2023. Since 2020, increasingly brazen narco-traffickers have been battling for control of the country’s ports, and criminal gangs are threatening to capture the state. The origins of the crisis date back a decade and a half, and it has gathered momentum with policy blunders by successive presidents on both left and right.

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