Ecuadorans vote in anti-crime referendum amid spike in deadly violence

Ecuadorans were voting Sunday in a referendum on proposed tougher measures to fight gang-related crime.

The once-peaceful South American country has been grappling with a shocking rise in violence that has seen two mayors killed this week.

The terrorizing streak has been blamed on gangs with links to transnational cartels using its ports to ship drugs to the United States and Europe.

The results of the referendum "will define the course and the state policy that we will take in order to face the challenge of fighting against violence and organized crime," said President Daniel Noboa as voting began at the Electoral Council in Quito.

Noboa declared in January a state of "internal armed conflict" with about 20 criminal groups blamed for a spasm of violence sparked by the jailbreak of a major drug lord, still on the run.

Gangsters kidnapped dozens of people, including police and prison guards, opened fire in a TV studio during a live broadcast, and threatened random executions in the days-long outburst that caused about 20 deaths.

Despite these efforts, the violence has persisted, which Noboa has taken as "a sign that narcoterrorism and its allies are looking for spaces to terrorize us."

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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