According to Ecuador's Interior Ministry, by the end of 2014 the Andean country's national homicide rate may fall to 7 murders for every 100,000 people -- the lowest in the past two decades -- bucking a regional trend.
AFP reported that between January and November, Ecuador registered 1,154 homicides, a drop of 26 percent compared to the previous year.
It's also a significant drop from 2008, when, according to Ecuadorean security analyst Ricardo Camacho, there was increased focus on security after Ecuador's murder rate reached 18 homicides per 100,000 people.
"If Ecuador's homicide rate really dropped over 10 points in six years, then that's miraculous," Camacho told InSight Crime. "I don't think they are doctoring the numbers. But as a citizen, I'd be curious to know the Interior Ministry's methodology for collecting this data."
The government has credited the security improvements to increased spending, including better equipment for police and higher police salaries, with some $163 million invested in the police between 2011 to 2013.
There was a new penal code approved in 2013, which, in addition to reducing punishments for low-level drug offenders, made contract killings ("sicariato") a crime punishable by up to 26 years in prison. This may have also had an effect on homicide rates, Camacho said.
Other crimes, including car theft and robbery, are also decreasing in Ecuador, according to government figures.
InSight Crime Analysis
While homicide and other crimes may be decreasing in Ecuador, the country still faces security challenges, especially in terms of its position as a major transit nation for cocaine.
"The murder rates aren't the only numbers that give a full picture of security in Ecuador," noted Ecuadorean security analyst Eduardo Jarrin. He said that even if violence overall is dropping, there is evidence from non-government sources that other crimes -- including femicides -- are going up.
Lautaro Ojeda, an expert in Ecuadorean security and a former professor at the Central University of Ecuador, told InSight Crime that domestic violence remains an issue in Ecuador, and that he does not believe that Ecuador's Interior Ministry includes deaths due to domestic violence in its calculations for the national homicide rate.
Ecuador's Interior Ministry did not respond in time to comment.