HomeNewsMurder Record Broken in Northern Ecuador as Gang Feuds Fuel Violence

Murder Record Broken in Northern Ecuador as Gang Feuds Fuel Violence


Esmeraldas, a province in northern Ecuador, has seen a sharp rise in homicides this year as the city becomes a major drug trafficking hotspot and the epicenter of an ongoing gang war.

Over 325 people were murdered in Esmeraldas during the first eight months of 2022, more than double all the homicides recorded in 2021, Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio reported on October 21.

Most of the killings are linked to gangs fighting to control drug trafficking routes from Colombia that go through Esmeraldas, according to Ecuador's chief of police, Fausto Salinas. 

Authorities have seized at least five tons of drugs in the province this year.

SEE ALSO: Deadly Bomb Attack Deepens Ecuador's Struggle with Gangs

Authorities believe that the Tiguerones, a strong prison gang, have control over drug trafficking in most of the cities of Esmeraldas. They have been battling the Gángster, a faction of Ecuador's most powerful gang, the Choneros, authorities alleged.

The province has witnessed an ongoing increase in violence for some time as gangs engage in tit-for-tat killings. Most recently, a local Tiguerones leader was murdered by hitmen on October 16. A day later, at his funeral, the Tiguerones announced that they would avenge his murder. 

Violence is also spilling over into the political sphere. On October 17, unidentified criminals also attacked Frickson Erazo, a local political candidate.

Prior to the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) in 2016, Esmeraldas was already a staging point for Colombian guerrilla groups. Since then, dissidents who refused to demobilize have adopted this role and drugs have continued to flow.

InSight Crime Analysis

Esmeraldas has been in the grips of a spiraling security crisis for years, a mixture of an inconvenient geographical situation, its role as a drug transit hub, and the presence of increasingly violent gangs.

Authorities have seized over 300 tons of drugs in the last 18 months, making Ecuador the country with the third-highest amount of cocaine seizures in the world. Esmeraldas, which has a crucial role in shipping cocaine to markets in North America, has played a significant role in this.

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

And as violence has exploded nationally, Esmeraldas has followed suit.

The Tiguerones, a former offshoot of the Choneros before they turned on their allies, have a strong grip on the province's criminal economies. They have an estimated 1,500 members in Esmeraldas' prisons and between 3,000 and 4,000 more members in the province's streets, according to William Calle, a district police commander, in a recent interview with Primicias. Connections with powerful drug trafficking gangs in Mexico and Colombia have only given them further strength.

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


A local gang targeted bus drivers in Barranquilla, Colombia, to gain attention ahead of the country's change in government.

COCAINE / 8 FEB 2022

Officials in the United States have revealed that former Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández is in fact included on a…

COCA / 17 AUG 2023

InSight Crime spoke with expert Yulia Vorobyeva, about drug trafficking trends and the growing demand for cocaine in Europe. …

About InSight Crime


InSight Crime Cited in New Colombia Drug Policy Plan

15 SEP 2023

InSight Crime’s work on emerging coca cultivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Venezuela was cited in the Colombian government’s…


InSight Crime Discusses Honduran Women's Prison Investigation

8 SEP 2023

Investigators Victoria Dittmar and María Fernanda Ramírez discussed InSight Crime’s recent investigation of a massacre in Honduras’ only women’s prison in a Twitter Spaces event on…


Human Trafficking Investigation Published in Leading Mexican Newspaper

1 SEP 2023

Leading Mexican media outlet El Universal featured our most recent investigation, “The Geography of Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border,” on the front page of its August 30…


InSight Crime's Coverage of Ecuador Leads International Debate

25 AUG 2023

This week, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime, was interviewed by La Sexta, a Spanish television channel, about the situation of extreme violence and insecurity in Ecuador…


Human Rights Watch Draws on InSight Crime's Haiti Coverage

18 AUG 2023

Non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch relied on InSight Crime's coverage this week, citing six articles and one of our criminal profiles in its latest report on the humanitarian…