1705649703 Hostage taking in front of a television in Ecuador Two suspects

Hostage-taking in front of a television in Ecuador: prosecutor murdered

The prosecutor responsible for investigating the Jan. 9 break-in by armed men on the set of an Ecuadorian public television station, briefly taking journalists and other staff hostage, has been murdered, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

• Also read: “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot!”: A hostage situation live on television in Ecuador

The live capture of heavily armed, masked men pinning journalists and employees of the TC station in Guayaquil (southwest) shocked the country, which was facing a wave of violence sparked by drug trafficking gangs.

“They came in to kill us, my God protect us,” one of the captured journalists had sent in a WhatsApp message to an AFP correspondent. Complaints could be heard in the background.

Amid the gunfire, these surreal images were broadcast live for several minutes, even though the lights went out on set and the camera froze.

Until the police apparently intervened and shouted “police, police”.

Thirteen attackers were arrested without causing any casualties and their faces were presented to the press a few days later.

According to the public prosecutor's office, the murdered prosecutor was responsible for determining which gang had carried out this attack.

Local media circulated images of the prosecutor's car with multiple bullet holes in the driver's window.

“In response to the murder of our colleague César Suarez… I will be categorical: organized crime groups, criminals and terrorists will not stop our commitment to Ecuadorian society,” Attorney General Diana Salazar said in a video posted on X.

This attack on a television set occurred shortly after the escape of the feared leader of the Choneros gang, Adolfo Macias, alias “Fito”, and was the starting point of a new episode of violence in the country ravaged by drug trafficking.

After Fito's escape, there were several mutinies and hostage-takings of guards in various prisons, which were spread on social networks through frightening videos that showed the prisoners being threatened with the knives of masked prisoners.

The gangs spread terror on the country's streets before more than 20,000 soldiers were deployed to restore order. Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa declared the country “at war.” More than 200 prison officials, hostages of mutineers, were released.

The violence in the country has claimed at least 19 lives.

Ecuador, once an oasis of peace, is reeling from violence after becoming the main exporter of cocaine produced in neighboring Peru and Colombia. The number of road killings increased by 800% between 2018 and 2023, from 6 to 46 per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2023, 7,800 homicides were recorded and 220 tons of drugs were seized