Elections in Ecuador: the referendum on the extradition of criminals at the heart of the debates
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso during a visit to Mexico City on November 24, 2022. AP - Marco Ugarte
Text by: RFI Follow
We vote this Sunday in Ecuador where 13.4 million people are called to the polls for local elections – electing, among other things, mayors and governors.
But it is also a question of answering the eight questions of a referendum – in particular to decide whether the country agrees to extradite criminals.
For more than 80 years, the country has banned the extradition of Ecuadorians.
An extradition defended by President Guillermo Lasso, on the occasion of this referendum, for criminals committing offenses linked to transnational organized crime, such as drug trafficking.
He is currently waging a very tough war against drug trafficking, in a country crossed by past violence from the streets to inside prisons – since 2021, 400 inmates linked to drug trafficking have been murdered.
With the Ecuadorian president and his government down in the polls, Guillermo Lasso hopes to at least win
in an eight-question referendum
, one of which would allow the extradition of Ecuadorian citizens guilty of transnational crimes.
Assassinations at the top
This is probably not the best time for Guillermo Lasso to measure his popularity on the subject of security.
More than 420 tons of drugs have been seized in the past two years, proving that Ecuador is a major trafficking hub.
As for assassinations, they have never been so numerous in the country's history, 4,539 last year, twice as many as in 2021. However, the extradition of Ecuadorian citizens remains a controversial subject, reports our correspondent in Quito,
It is a debate between on the one hand the defense of sovereignty, nationalism and the right of Ecuadorian citizens to be judged by their own justice.
And on the other, the effectiveness of the fight against drugs.
When we see the violence in the prisons, the general impunity, that the capos continue to direct the drug traffic from their cells, all this proves that Justice and the police are permeable to the influence of organized crime
", explains the political scientist Sebastian Donoso.
The question of extradition is used to seduce voters and encourage them to answer "yes" to the other questions of the referendum as well.
This, while Ecuador is indeed going through a serious security crisis.
There are therefore disproportionate expectations around this measure, while the experiments carried out abroad have not been proven.
Countries that have allowed their citizens to be extradited abroad in such cases still have weak institutions, and the number of homicides there remains particularly high.
Extradition is therefore a tool, but not a solution against drug trafficking, which is explained by structural causes such as poverty, or even the lack of prospects.
Juan Pablo Jaramillo, Professor of Comparative Politics at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Quito
Extradition could therefore be seen as a means of limiting the power of the cartels, even by the president's opponents.
Guillermo Lasso has in any case tried to sensitize the population until the last moment by opposing the early release of Junior Roldán, a leader of the Choneros gang, sentenced to 27 years in prison.
Other issues covered
Another theme addressed by the consultation this Sunday, the number of members of the National Assembly, that the president wants to reduce – they are 137 today, they will be 152 in two years.
The country has seven national political parties and no less than 272 movements, most local,
some of which are suspected of having links with drug trafficking.
Finally, Guillermo Lasso wants to include in the list of protected areas certain areas where there are water sources considered “
of public interest
The aim is, among other things, to combat illegal mining.
The president also wants to set up compensation for people and communities who protect the environment.
After the referendum on Sunday, the Parliament will have one year to put in place the reforms that the population will have accepted.
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