The streets in Ecuador fell silent the day after hooded gunman invaded a live television broadcast, as President Daniel Noboa declared a “state of war” on drug-trafficking gangs.
Residents in the country’s capital Quito and port city of Guayaquil likened the atmosphere to a pandemic lockdown, with many businesses closed and schools shuttered.
“It’s horrible, the streets are very empty,” Rodolfo Tuaz, a 40-year-old security guard said. “It’s a very cold environment, as if there were a new COVID.”
It comes after live television images broadcast on Tuesday showed people wearing balaclavas – some waving guns – inside Ecuador’s TC Television station in Guayaquil.
Alleged gang members were seen telling TC staff to lie down on the floor and claimed that they had “bombs”, while shouting and noises similar to gunshots could be heard in the background.
The government said nearly 330 people, including 13 people in connection with the live broadcast raid, had been arrested for alleged acts of terrorism.
In an updated statement, President Noboa said: “We are in a state of war and we cannot give in.”
“We’ve taken measures that should have been taken a long time ago, and which past governments didn’t take the decision to do,” he said.
“We are living in a state practically of war against terrorism, these are not organised criminal groups, but terrorists sometimes financed by narcotraffic, sometimes human trafficking, organ trafficking, gunrunning.”