Security crisis in Ecuador family of gang leader Fito

Security crisis in Ecuador: family of gang leader Fito expelled from Argentina, the hunt continues

Fito, the feared Ecuadorian gang leader whose escape from prison sparked a major security crisis in the country, has still not been found as of January 7.

The wife and children of the feared leader of the Ecuadorian Los Choneros gang, Adolfo Macias alias “Fito”, who was on the run and whose escape triggered a serious security crisis, were arrested on Friday in Argentina and deported to Ecuador, AFP has learned consistent sources.

Inda Mariela Peñarrieta, 48, and the couple's children, ages 21, 12 and 4, were arrested in Cordoba (center), Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said at a news conference. According to her, Aldolfo Macias' family and other members of his “clan” came to settle in an upscale area of ​​Cordoba on January 5, three days before Fito's escape from a prison in Guayaquil (southwest). “We are proud that Argentina is a hostile territory for the establishment of a gang of drug traffickers,” she added.

The minister did not specify the reason for the arrest and expulsion of Fito's family, but stated that “a decision by the migration authority suspended their temporary stay and enabled their expulsion.” The plane landed in the morning at the airport of the major port city of Guayaquil (southwest), which was under strict surveillance, an AFP photographer noted, while the Argentine authorities, for their part, broadcast images of this arrival under police escort. Ecuadorian authorities have not yet made any official comment.

“Searched everywhere”

“Fito escaped from the huge Guayaquil prison complex at an unknown date and is currently wanted everywhere. At the international level, we have already found his family (…) who will be brought to Ecuador,” said President Daniel Noboa in a press interview.

According to Ecuadorian news site Primicias, Inda Mariela Peñarrieta went from a nurse to an extremely wealthy businesswoman in six years. In 2020, she was investigated for money laundering, tax fraud and unjust personal enrichment, but was not prosecuted. The public prosecutor's office is checking the impartiality of the three judges responsible for the investigation. Primicias also claims that between 2013 and 2019, Fito's wife received $2.1 million in bank deposits but only reported $1.7 million to local tax authorities.

According to the same source, Ms. Peñarrieta, her two brothers and two other members of Fito's family were prosecuted for organized crime, criminal conspiracy, murder, weapons possession and theft. Fito's daughter Michelle Peñarrieta, whose stage name is “Queen Michelle”, sings a “Narcorroccido” (popular song in honor of drug traffickers) to the fame of her father, who also appears himself in the clip published on the YouTube channel and social networks of Los Choneros .

Still on the run

Fito, who has become Ecuador's most wanted man, is still on the run. On Friday, Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa said it was “possible” that he was in neighboring Colombia and “asked President (Gustavo) Petro to initiate intensive search operations.” The announcement of Fito's escape on January 7 was followed by several mutinies in Ecuador's prisons and scenes of gang violence in the streets. President Noboa declared Ecuador a state of war and dispatched more than 20,000 soldiers to restore order.

A large-scale operation in the Guayaquil prison, launched on Thursday by the army together with the police, continued on Friday. The army sent images of confiscated firearms as well as graffiti and paintings glorifying gangs on a train to news coverage. In an interview, Guayaquil police commander Victor Herrera warned of possible gang reprisals following the eviction of Fito's family: “The national police are attentive to any impact that this capture and other ongoing actions may have.”