The Ecuadorian Ministry of the Interior has extended a state of emergency in place since January 27 in the border cantons of San Lorenzo and Eloy Alfaro (Esmeraldas province). The measures, now set to remain in effect until April 28, were implemented amid a wave of violence carried out by illegal armed groups (notably involved in drug trafficking) that persists along the Colombian border. President Lenín Moreno has also ordered the creation of a government body dedicated to border security (Consejo de Seguridad Fronteriza de Ecuador). An increased police and military presence is to be anticipated in the two cantons, and elsewhere along the border, throughout the duration of the state of emergency.
Security along Ecuador's border region with Colombia has deteriorated in recent months due to an increased presence of Colombian organized crime groups, notably militants of the now-demobilized FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) guerilla group. The state of emergency was initially declared following a bombing that targeted a police station in San Lorenzo on January 27, injuring some 30 people. The attack has been attributed to ex-FARC dissidents and was likely in retaliation for security operations targeting drug trafficking along the Ecuadorian-Colombian border.
A string of violent incidents has since occurred in the border region, including the following recent events:
- March 20: An improvised explosive device (IED) killed three soldiers and wounded six more in the Mataje area of Esmeraldas province.
- March 26: An IED attack damaged a military vehicle in Mataje.
- March 26: The Ecuadorian army discovered a vacant FARC camp in the Putumayo area of Sucumbíos province.
- March 26: A team of Ecuadorian journalists were kidnapped in Esmeraldas, likely by ex-FARC militants. Search and rescue operations continue as of March 29.
Individuals in Ecuador, particularly in the border regions of Esmeraldas and Sucumbíos province, are advised to monitor developments to the situation and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.