Ecuador's Noboa declares new security state of emergency

Ecuador holds referendum on security measures to fight violence

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) -Ecuadorean President Daniel Noboa on Wednesday declared a new state of emergency in seven of the country's 24 provinces, as well as one area of a further province, citing a rise in the number of violent deaths and other crimes in those jurisdictions.

The measure will be in force for 60 days in Guayas, El Oro, Santa Elena, Manabi, Sucumbios, Orellana and Los Rios provinces, as well as one area of Azuay province, according to a decree signed by Noboa, who in January declared Ecuador was at war and designated 22 criminal gangs as terrorist groups.

The decree will be submitted to the Constitutional Court, the government said earlier on Wednesday. The court this month ruled that a previous emergency declaration in five provinces was not sufficiently justified, rendering it null.

Security forces will be able to enter homes and intercept correspondence in the targeted provinces without prior authorization, Noboa said in the decree.

Noboa blames violence - including the January invasion of a television station by gunmen and a mass hostage-taking of prison guards - on drug gangs which move cocaine from Colombia and Peru through Ecuador.

He has previously used state of emergency declarations to increase police and military operations meant to fight thousands of murders and other crimes.

The government says violent deaths fell 28% in the first months of the year, compared with the same period in 2023, though it has recognized that other crimes like kidnappings and extortion rose.

The attorney general's office is investigating eight extrajudicial killings reported to have taken place during the country's most recent state of emergency, after rights groups warned authorities were not taking steps to prevent abuses.

(Reporting by Alexandra ValenciaWriting by Julia Symmes Cobb)