In a major turn of events, the United States has issued an emergency travel alert for Ecuador, an increasingly popular country that in recent years has become a trendy spot for nature-based getaways and cultural tourism in Latin America, thanks to its unspoiled nature and colonial heritage.
In case you haven’t been following the news in the last couple of days, peace in Ecuador has sadly been disappeared following numerous prison riots, which have led to a surge in crimes across the typically tranquil nation. Travelers will need to follow all government orders and adhere to the advice in the latest alert issued by the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador.
Now, U.S. citizens who are visiting soon, should they opt to go ahead with their travel plans, will be subject to strict new orders.
What Is Happening In Ecuador Right Now?
It all started when the Ecuadorian Government confirmed that, on January 7, Adolfo Macias, the leader of a powerful criminal organization who had been jailed on a 34-year sentence, had escaped prison on the day he was rumored to be transferred to a maximum-security facility.
There have been simultaneous criminal attacks across cities, jailbreaks, and even armed men storming into live TV studios.
As Guillhaume Long, the former Foreign Minister has stated, Ecuador may have had an issue with crime for years, having ended 2023 rated among the worse in Latin America, but following last weekend’s mayhem, the situation has ‘spiraled out of control’.
It didn’t end there:
In a coordinated attack on January 8, only a day later, prisoners in at least six other correctional facilities across Ecuador rebelled against authorities and seized power, with as many as 150 guards and staff taken hostage and 39 inmates breaking free of a prison in Riobamba alone.
The situation keeps deteriorating quickly, as by January 9, violence quickly spilled onto the streets, with at least five explosions in ‘several cities’.
Though there have been no injuries or casualties reported for those, the overall picture is rather grim, and what’s worse, fast-evolving.
@bnnbreaking #BNNEcuador Reports. U.S. Diplomat Expresses Grave Concern over Ecuador’s Escalating Violence. #Escalating #Violence #Concern #Ecuador #US ♬ original sound – BNN Breaking
Government officials have counted as many as 30 different attacks since Macias went missing last Sunday, but no exact links have yet been established, nor has the inmate been tracked down yet.
We understand it may be confusing, and there is a lot going on, but this is clear: due to drug trafficking and turf wars, violence in Ecuador has risen tremendously compared to previous years, and even recent weeks, and the state of unrest could be prolonged further.
What Has Been The Government’s Response?
Based on Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa’s statements, civil distress could worsen, as he will ‘not negotiate’ with the parties responsible for the latest episode.
Noboa elaborated by saying the violence is ‘a reaction’ to the Government’s proposal to build a high-security prison for jailed gang leaders, but that has not been fully established, either.
In response, on January 8 the President a nationwide State of Emergency, set to last 60 days.
Travelers In The Country Are Subject To A Nighttime Curfew
This includes a national curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. directly impacting nighttime services across tourist destinations like Quito, the capital and cultural heart, Cuenca, the colonial gem, Guayaquil, the gateway to the Pacific, and many more.
There is no way of knowing when, or where crime will happen, or when or how an armed conflict will erupt, but if we’re to trust the President’s statement, it most certainly will, as military action will take place, and anti-Government forces will react.
Taking this information into account, it’s no surprise the U.S. Embassy has now issued an emergency alert for Americans in, or who are planning on traveling to Ecuador.
What Is The U.S. Government Saying?
The U.S. Department of State acknowledges the seriousness of the situation, noting that schools in Ecuador will operate virtually through January 12, and even remote work is being recommended ‘wherever possible’.
So far, Ecuador is yet to be demoted from Level 2 to 3 in the Travel Advisory listing, meaning the U.S. still does not discourage Americans from traveling, but seeing that usually happens with some delay, and it’s almost a given the country will be hit with a ‘Reconsider Travel’ advice at some point down the line.
Unless, of course, order is suddenly reinstated. For now, that looks unlikely.
While the advisory isn’t updated, the alert warns Americans to keep up to date with official communications from the government of Ecuador pertaining to the State of Emergency, ‘monitor credible media sources’ for information on ‘threats and violent activity’, and review Washington’s own safety advice.
How Does This Affect Tourists?
Ecuador has not shut down, and tourist services, hotels, and tourist attractions continue to operate normally, except they must adhere to the nighttime curfew.
Other than the threat of violence, the major immediate impact on the tourism scene is the theoretical halting of all nightlife across Ecuador.
In the medium to long term, there is no way of knowing how Ecuador will suffer from a potential eventual drop in tourism revenue.
After all, as charming and picturesque as it is, we wouldn’t be the first ones to book a flight out to Quito anytime soon, not until the dust settles and there is more information available.
For those who still intend to visit, flights to and from Ecuador continue to operate normally without changes in schedule or time, so far, as the curfew provides an exception for a number of essential workers, as well as individuals traveling via airports during curfew hours.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com