Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno has declared a state of emergency in several communities along the coastal border with Colombia in Esmeraldas, justifying the measure as necessary in the face of rising violence in the region.
"The minister of interior, Cesar Navas, has reported violent actions by organized crime groups including to date, 11 terrorist attacks, seven killed individuals, 11 injuries, 150 displaced individuals, and three state infrastructures affected. Additionally, two Ecuadorean citizens have been kidnapped," the declaration reads.
The report declares a state of emergency in the communities of Mataje, El Pan, La Cadena and Eloy Alfaro, all in Esmeraldas, and mobilizes the armed forces and national police to "reestablish order and citizen security."
According to Article 3 of the order, the act 'suspends the rights of inviolability of the home, inviolability of correspondence, freedom of transport, association and meeting.'
Armed Forces and Interior Ministry officials are given the right to determine 'the best way to apply these means to achieve the indicated ends.'
On Friday, Moreno appointed economist Lino Mauro Toscanini Segale as the new interior minister and top military official Raul Oswaldo Jarrin Roman as defense minister. Oswaldo Jarrin Roman had previously served in the role between 2005 and 2006.
They are replacing Cesar Navas and Patricio Zambrano in their respective roles, both of whom resigned earlier on Friday. The two had been tasked with capturing Walter Patricio Artizala Vernaza, also known as 'El Guacho,' the head of an armed group accused of carrying out attacks against Ecuadorean police, military offices and officials, along with five kidnappings. The deadline for his capture expired on April 26.
Navas was the official government spokesperson charged with managing the country's response to the kidnapping of three staff members of local paper El Comercio in late March.
The government has responded by militarizing the border and reaching security agreements with the United States and Colombia. Navas signed an agreement with the United States to cooperate on security, which could lead to the establishment of a U.S. military base in the Andean country.
Under former President Rafael Correa, Ecuador had cut off military cooperation with the United States, closing the military base in Manta as a way of advancing sovereignty.