Ecuador’s security situation has been a cause for concern in recent years. The expansion of organized crime has led to a significant increase in the country’s homicide rate. Juanita Goebertus, director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, is not surprised by the crisis that has erupted in Ecuador.
In an interview, Goebertus points out that the situation Ecuadorians are facing at the hands of criminal gangs is dramatic and demands effective responses to protect the population.
Organized crime problem in Ecuador
According to Goebertus, organized crime has tripled the homicide rate in Ecuador in recent years. This situation has generated an atmosphere of insecurity and fear among the population.
To address this problem, Ecuador needs more and better prosecutors and judges who can effectively investigate these gangs and attack the money laundering and corruption that allows them to operate in the country.
However, Goebertus warns that the decision to recognize an armed conflict in the country is not the solution. According to her, recognizing an armed conflict should be a technical decision based on a rigorous analysis of the facts and international law.
The decree approved by President Daniel Noboa, which authorizes the use of lethal force as a first option, lacks legal soundness and opens the door to serious abuses committed with impunity.
Deteriorating Democracy in Latin America
Goebertus also notes that 2023 was not a good year for human rights and the rule of law in Latin America. In several countries in the region, dynamics of restriction of the right to vote and political participation have been observed.
From the Bolsonarist assault on Congress in Brazil to the successive attacks from Consuelo Porras’ Public Prosecutor’s Office in Guatemala, different types of authoritarianism have been strengthened.
The Human Rights Watch director expresses concern about the situation in El Salvador, where President Nayib Bukele has used his popularity to erode the rule of law and reduce the separation of powers.
It also highlights the security situation in Mexico and the upcoming elections in Venezuela, which could be affected if the process of empowering María Corina Machado is not definitively consolidated.
Argentina’s case and the worrying statements of Javier Milei
Regarding Argentina, Goebertus comments that the country is immersed in an economic crisis that has overshadowed a deeper institutional crisis. Political instability has led to the election of Javier Milei, a popular president but with worrying statements regarding human rights.
Milei has threatened to repress protests and bypass Congress, raising concerns about respect for human rights and democratic institutions in the country.
Joe Biden Administration Policy Toward Latin America
Regarding the Joe Biden Administration’s policy toward Latin America, Goebertus notes that, despite having a greater commitment to human rights and the rule of law than his predecessor, little change has been seen on immigration and drug issues.
According to her, the administration seems more focused on its domestic problems than on strengthening the rule of law and human rights in the region.
Latin American elections and their implications
Goebertus stresses the importance of closely monitoring elections in El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela. In El Salvador, the concern lies in the way President Bukele has used his popularity to undermine the rule of law. In Mexico, the security situation is of great concern.
In Venezuela, the qualification of María Corina Machado as the opposition candidate is crucial for the negotiation process and its legitimacy.
Bukele’s authoritarian path and its impact on Latin America
Concern about the authoritarian path Bukele has taken in El Salvador is evident. More than 73,000 people are deprived of liberty in the country in almost two years of a state of emergency.
Serious violations of due process, torture and deaths in detention centers have been documented. Goebertus stresses the importance of not falling into the false dilemma of having to choose between security and human rights, since it is possible to have effective security policies that protect human rights.
Elections in Mexico and the challenges for the next president
Regarding the elections in Mexico, Goebertus notes that it is very likely that a woman will become the next president. However, he notes that under the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, serious phenomena affecting the rule of law and human rights have been observed.
The strengthening of military forces and the constant attacks on civil society are some of the problems that the next president will have to address to guarantee the protection of human rights and the strengthening of independent institutions.
Deteriorating security in Colombia
Regarding Colombia, Goebertus expresses concern about the deteriorating security situation in the country. A significant increase in massacres, kidnapping and forced recruitment of minors has been observed.
In addition to the numbers, there has been a sense of abandonment in communities that have suffered from the war. However, Goebertus points out that attributing the deterioration of security to the total peace policy of Gustavo Petro’s government is not the solution.
According to her, it is necessary to have an effective security policy that guarantees the protection of the population and respect for human rights.
Security crisis in Ecuador and the deterioration of democracy in Latin America are problems that require effective responses. It is necessary to strengthen institutions, guarantee the rule of law and protect human rights.
It is clear that the Joe Biden Administration’s policy toward Latin America must be more focused on strengthening the rule of law and human rights in the region. In addition, it is critical to closely monitor the elections in El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela to ensure the legitimacy of the process and the protection of human rights.