AMERICA/ECUADOR - Prosecutor investigating links between narcos and corrupt officials killed

Thursday, 18 January 2024 drug trade   corruption  

Quito (Agenzia Fides) - César Suárez, the Ecuadorian prosecutor assassinated yesterday, January 17, was carrying out delicate investigations. The prosecutor was murdered with at least 20 gunshots last night in Guayaquil, while he was driving his car. The assassins knew his route and his habits. Suárez was responsible for investigating the instigators of the assault on the headquarters of TC Televisión on January 9, amid riots and attacks by criminal groups in prisons, in reaction to the declaration of "internal armed conflict" by the President Daniel Noboa (see Fides, 10/1/2024). It is suspected that it was members of Los Tiguerones, a group that emerged from a splinter group of "Los Choneros", the main drug gang operating in Ecuador working with Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, attacked the television station. However, the prosecutor had previously investigated corruption in hospitals during the pandemic and was involved in the important "Metástasis" investigation into the government's complicity in drug trafficking. The operation, which took place a few weeks before the outbreak of two major drug lords, José Adolfo Macías alias "Fito", leader of "Los Choneros" (see Fides 9/1/2024), and Fabricio Colón Pico, leader of "Los Lobos", from prison, led to the arrest of about 40 people across Ecuador.
They include judges accused of favoring leaders of criminal organizations, police officers accused of falsifying evidence and supplying weapons to prisons, and the former prison authority director accused of treating a drug lord particularly well. The judge's assassination came a day after the arrest in Panama of Daniel Salcedo, accused in several corruption cases prosecuted by prosecutor Suárez. In 2021, Salcedo was sentenced to 13 years in prison for allegations of irregularities in the sale of medical supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in December 2022, he was released on a judge's order. Salcedo is also one of the suspects in the anti-corruption operation “Metastasis.” One of the judges who favored Salcedo, Emerson Curipallo, was arrested in December 2023 for allegedly receiving $250,000 from drug lord Leandro Norero. The killing of Suárez caused renewed alarm among the population, who were breathing a sigh of relief after the end of the prison unrest and the restoration of control of the streets by the security forces. Soldiers and police deployed in the area were warned of possible poisoning attempts from toxic food offered by "civilians." The military asked the population not to give food to the soldiers and to channel donations through the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES). (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 18/1/2024)