- 64% in Ecuador do not feel safe walking alone at night
- 41% trust local police
- 24% trust the judicial system
WASHINGTON, DC — Ecuador is now the least safe country in Latin America, thanks to gang violence, drug trafficking and growing civil unrest in 2022. Nearly two in three (64%) Ecuadorians were interviewed last year that they do not feel safe walking. alone at night where they live, and only 35% said yes.
This situation represents a rapid and dramatic change in the fortunes of the Andean country. Just five years ago, Ecuador was ranked among the safest countries in the region, with the majority of the population feeling safe (52%) walking alone at night.
Ecuador’s status as the least safe country in Latin America in 2022 was not easy in a region where countries are usually among the least safe countries in the world. Venezuela has been ranked as the least safe region in the region — and often in the world — in most years the World Poll has been conducted. However, the security situation in Venezuela improved in 2022, with 53% feeling unsafe walking alone at night, down from 67% the previous year.
Why is Ecuador vaulted to No. 1?
In the last few years, Ecuador has become the new nerve center of the global drug trade. Situated between the world’s two largest cocaine producers — Colombia and Peru — Ecuador has historically been fairly successful in limiting its exposure to the worst effects of regional drug trafficking.
However, booming cocaine production in Colombia, cuts to Ecuador’s prison budgets and the abolition of the Ministry of Justice, among other factors, mean that the state is now less able to control the effects of the international drug trade. .
Crime rates have skyrocketed recently, as have prison populations. Hundreds of prisoners have been murdered, at least a dozen policemen have been killed in escalating gang violence, and some Ecuadorians have seen decapitated bodies hanging from bridges.
As a result, President Guillermo Lasso introduced multiple states of emergency to stop the violence, including in late June 2022, just before the start of the World Poll fieldwork.
Few Ecuadorians Feel Safe Anywhere
West coast states – the epicenter of recent violence and drug trafficking – have been hit hardest, and there, nearly three-quarters (73%) of all adults do not feel safe walking alone.
Public safety in western Ecuador is now at a level similar to that of Afghanistan in 2021 (77% felt unsafe) when the Taliban returned to power, or Chad in 2006 (74%) during a military effort to do.
In addition, the public safety crisis is affecting all Ecuadorians, but especially residents aged 50 years and older (71% unsafe) and women (72%), who do not feel as safe when walk alone than men across the region.
It is a matter of concern to the government that the crisis is not limited directly feeling unsafe. It is also linked to a rapidly eroding faith in the state’s ability to enforce public order.
Ecuador’s trust in their local police and their faith in the judicial system are the lowest the country has seen in over a decade. About two in five (41%) Ecuadorians in 2022 expressed confidence in their local police force, and even less trusted the judicial system (24%).
Between 2011 and 2021, the majority of Ecuadorians trusted the police, an average of 60% over that period.
Trust in local police drops by just 30% among those who feel unsafe walking alone at night in their neighbourhoods. The rapid drop in overall trust in the police shows that vulnerable Ecuadorians no longer have faith in the state to protect them.
Ecuador is in the middle of a perfect storm of factors that are driving the public safety crisis today.
Gallup’s data shows that the Ecuadorian government faces a huge challenge in the oldest raison d’etre of state rule: protecting citizens from violence.
This challenge must be addressed immediately if Ecuadorians are to once again enjoy the safer country they have known in past years. If not, the growing insecurity seriously hinders Ecuador’s development.
Ecuador is one of the few countries in Latin America with a pro-US administration, and Lasso met with President Joe Biden in December to strengthen relations and discuss the flow of migration to the United States.
But with Ecuador announcing a new free trade agreement with China and its security crisis threatening to worsen in 2023, the US-Ecuadorian alliance could come under further strain.
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