HomeNewsBodies Hanging from Bridges - Where Mexico Led, Ecuador Follows

Bodies Hanging from Bridges - Where Mexico Led, Ecuador Follows


The discovery of two bodies hanging from a bridge in Ecuador may be the starkest sign yet of the country’s accelerated spiral into violence, including copying the worst excesses seen in Mexico.

On February 14, two bodies were left hanging from a pedestrian bridge over a major thoroughfare in the city of Durán, next to Ecuador’s southern port city of Guayaquil. According to a national police press conference, the two men had been missing since January 11 and suggested the killings might be linked to the recent seizure of over seven tons in Guayaquil.

One police source told the newspaper, El Universo, that a rival gang had kidnapped the two men as part of a fight for control of drug trafficking routes through the port of Guayaquil. Police later found an abandoned van, suspected to be the vehicle in which the men were carried, containing rope and adhesive tape.

The two corpses were followed by another macabre display of violence. On February 15, a bag containing a man's head was discovered near the entrance to Ecuador's Puerto Bolívar port terminal, south of Guayaquil. Authorities said that the decapitation was connected to the seizure of 100 kilograms of cocaine in containers destined for Belgium, El Universo reported.

SEE ALSO: GameChangers 2021 – No End in Sight for Ecuador's Downward Spiral

Guayaquil has been at the epicenter of Ecuador’s shocking rise in violence in 2021. By February 14, the country’s Zone 8, an administrative area covering Guayaquil and Durán, had seen 159 homicides in 2022.

These crimes have been growing increasingly gruesome. Five decapitated bodies have been found in the two cities since October. And last year, most of the 320 inmates killed inside Ecuadorean prisons were in Guayaquil’s Guayas 1 jail.

Police sources told Ecuadorean news outlet, Extra, that one hypothesis behind the killings was that they were linked to an ongoing rivalry between the Águilas, a faction of the sizeable Choneros gang, and the Chone Killers.

Much of the violence in 2021 was sparked by a bloody feud between the Choneros, once Ecuador’s largest gang, and a constellation of rivals, many of which were once part of the Choneros. This rivalry has escalated rapidly in recent years as more and more cocaine has flowed through Ecuador, often leaving the port of Guayaquil to go to foreign markets, especially the United States and Europe.

Ecuadorean gangs are entrusted with moving the cocaine through the country by larger criminal groups selling the cocaine from Colombia and Mexican groups receiving it. The Choneros, for example, were long a point of contact for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, while its rivals are apparently contracted by the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG).

InSight Crime Analysis

These killings are the latest evidence that Ecuador, long less violent than its cocaine-producing neighbors, is catching up alarmingly quickly.

While the actual presence of Mexican cartels in Ecuador has been somewhat overblown, their financial and material support for Ecuadorean groups have certainly ramped up the violence.

Since first appearing as a cartel tactic in 2008, bodies hanging from bridges have gone from an aberration to a weekly occurrence in Mexico. According to Alejandro Hope, a Mexican security analyst, they send a clear message of defiance.

SEE ALSO: Thriving in the Shadows: Cocaine, Crime and Corruption in Ecuadord Spiral

“Making an execution public is a sign of vast impunity and that you do not fear the consequences,” he told Univision.

The same holds true in Ecuador. Despite Guayaquil having been the hub of national violence for several years, authorities have not seemed to make any consistent progress in stopping the bloodshed. In 2021, police made repeated incursions into the city’s poorer areas, often near the port, with armored cars, helicopters and even military, but the violence has continued.

What’s more, the area around Guayaquil has become divided into gang-controlled territories, which has only worsened the violence. In Durán, the Chone Killers have been blamed for much of the violence and for creating a climate of fear among residents. Led by Benjamín Camacho, alias “Ben 10,” the Chone Killers were an armed wing of the Choneros until they turned on the gang in 2021 with a slew of other factions.

While there is a vast difference in terms of manpower and influence, there are parallels between the story of the Chone Killers and the infamous Zetas in Mexico. Created as a group of enforcers for Mexico’s Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo), the Zetas turned on their masters in the 2000s and began a brutal campaign of terror. They were behind much of the violent innovations that worsened Mexico’s drug war, the legacy of which is still devastating the country today.

While it is uncertain if the Chone Killers are behind the bodies on the bridge, like their Mexican cousins, they are playing an outsized role in Ecuador’s continuing descent into madness.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Mexico's homicide rate reached its highest level in two years in February, and the state of Colima displaced Guerrero as…


According to numbers kept by Mexico's government, abductions dropped 17 percent last year, although the numbers kept by a kidnapping…

MEXICO / 23 APR 2015

Mexico's Senate has finally approved a long debated anti-corruption law, but serious doubts remain over whether the reforms will make…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…


Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…


InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…


Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…