Ecuadorean prosecutor investigating TV station attack has been assassinated, attorney general says

Relatives of slain Prosecutor Cesar Suarez remain outisde the morgue in Guayaquil, Ecuador on January 17, 2024. A prosecutor charged with investigating the dramatic live-broadcast armed assault last week on an Ecuadoran television station was shot dead Wednesday, the country's attorney general said. "In the face of the murder of our colleague Cesar Suarez ... I am going to be emphatic: organized crime groups, criminals, terrorists will not stop our commitment to Ecuadoran society," said Attorney General Diana Salazar in a statement on X. (Photo by Marcos PIN / AFP) (Photo by MARCOS PIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Relatives of slain prosecutor Cesar Suarez outside the morgue in Guayaquil, Ecuador on January 17.

An Ecuadorean prosecutor, who was reportedly leading an investigation into an attack on a local TV network, was assassinated on Wednesday in Guayaquil, according to Ecuador’s Attorney General Diana Salazar.

Cesar Suarez was killed in the northern part of the city, known for being one of the most violent cities in the country. He was a prosecutor for the Guayas province and he focused on organized transnational crime, Salazar said in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Ecuadorean police have arrested two men for their alleged participation in the assassination of Suarez, according to General Commander of the National Police, Cesar Zapata. Zapata said that investigative procedures helped identify the suspects.

Suarez was leading the investigation into the storming of local network TC Television by armed men while it was broadcasting live on January 9, the Attorney General’s office confirmed to CNN en Espanol.

“I am going to be emphatic, the organized criminal groups, criminals, terrorists will not stop our commitment to the Ecuadorian society, we will continue with more strength and commitment,” Salazar said, adding, “we have to be clear; this atrocious event brings with it a message towards the work we are carrying out through justice in Ecuador.”

The storming of the TV network came as the country was rocked by explosions, police kidnappings, and prison disturbances after Ecuador President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency last Monday after notorious gang leader Adolfo “Fito” Macias allegedly escaped from a prison in Guayaquil.

Fito is the leader of Los Choneros, one of Ecuador’s most feared gangs – linked to maritime drug trafficking to Mexico and the United States – that also works with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel and the Oliver Sinisterra Front in Colombia, according to authorities.

The TV station attack led Noboa to declare an “internal armed conflict” in the country, ordering security forces to “neutralize” several criminal groups accused of spreading extreme violence in the Latin American nation.

Since then, Ecuadorian military and police have spread throughout the city of Guayaquil, a CNN team on the ground witnessed.

The Ecuadorian Presidency said in a statement Wednesday that the country’s national police and armed forces had carried out a total of 20,849 operations against organized criminal groups, which have led to the arrest of 1,975 people since January 9.

Ecuador’s Armed Forces also captured six members of a terrorist organization in Guayaquil, and seven members of the terrorist organization in Los Tiguerones, including “Leo,” the alleged leader of a network of hitmen, in Victoria del Portete, the statement also said.

The operations will continue to be carried out in the 24 provinces of Ecuador to “ensure the safety of Ecuadorians,” it added.

This comes as rival criminal organizations fuel Ecuador’s worsening security situation in their battle to control drug trafficking routes.

Ecuador is nestled between two of the world’s largest cocaine producers, Peru and Colombia, and its deep ports have made it a key transit point for cocaine making its way to consumers in the United States and Europe. Its dollarized economy has also made it a strategic location for traffickers seeking to launder money.

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