This Thursday (10), a video allegedly linked to one of the biggest criminal groups in Ecuador, Los Lobos, was released on social networks, in which they claimed responsibility for the murder of Fernando Villavicencio, presidential candidate, shot dead on Wednesday. (9) after leaving a rally in Quito.
However, a new recording was made, in which other alleged members of the group deny involvement with the crime. “Ecuador, make no mistake. We are ‘Los Lobos’, we don’t cover our faces, nobody speaks for us and we respect peace,” said one man.
Despite uncertainty over its role in the murder, the faction is involved in violent massacres across the country, such as gang clashes inside Ecuadorian jails, which left at least 30 people dead last month. If added since 2020, deaths from conflicts between criminal groups in prisons already reach 300.
The organization is a splinter of the Los Choneros faction, allied with Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the largest in the world.
According to the Insightcrime portal, Los Lobos began to gain prominence in 2020, after the death of the rival leadership, known as “Rasquiña”, a fact that led to the fragmentation of important criminal groups that until then were enemies of the faction.
With the weakening of Los Choneros, groups formerly allied with him, such as the Chone Killers and the Tiguerones, now unite to fight him, in a period of strengthening of Los Lobos.
Gang disputes in Ecuador take place mainly on the country’s coast, where one of the main international drug trafficking routes passes.
According to the EFE news agency, two of the country’s major ports are springboards for shipping large amounts of cocaine to Europe and the United States via maritime trade.
Growing conflicts and the dominance of drug trafficking in the country provoked an explosion of violence, making 2022 the year with the highest homicide record in Ecuador’s history, with a rate of 25.32 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers violence to be epidemic in a region when there are more than ten homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
The criminal faction operates mainly in Latacunga, Cuenca, in the Amazonian province of Pastaza, and in the coastal city of Machala, according to local press reports.
However, since national recognition, Los Lobos has also begun to control maximum security prisons, notably the Turi prison in Cuenca, which houses around 1,600 inmates, as well as Sierra Centro and Cotopaxi, on the outskirts of Latacunga.
In the Litoral prison, in Guayaquil, the largest in the country, the group controls pavilions 8 and 9, according to the newspaper El Universo.
Other smaller prisons also began to have a greater presence of the faction, in the provinces of Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Azuay and El Oro.
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