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Ecuadorans seem to reject extradition proposal: partial results

#Ecuadorans #reject #extradition #proposal #partial #results

Ecuadorans appear to have rejected a proposal by the government to allow extradition of citizens with links to organised crime, according to initial results of a referendum published Monday.

The extradition of Ecuadorans is prohibited by the constitution of the South American country rocked by a dramatic increase in criminal violence.

Conservative President Guillermo Lasso has proposed legalizing it as a means of dealing with the crime wave that claimed the lives of two candidates in local elections held alongside the referendum.

On Sunday, the matter of extradition was put to a mandatory referendum for 13.4 million eligible voters among Ecuador’s 18.2 million people.

With 66 percent of ballots on the extradition issue counted by Monday, the “No” vote led with 53 percent to 47 percent for “Yes,” according to preliminary results published by the National Electoral Council (CNE.) 

An opinion poll concluded on the eve of the vote had predicted a large victory for the “Yes” vote pushed by Lasso.

Ecuador is sandwiched between Colombia and Peru, the world’s two largest cocaine producers, and has itself become a hub for the global drug trade in recent years.

Despite not having any major drug plantations or cartels of its own, nor big laboratories for refining cocaine, Ecuador is listed by the United States among the top 22 drug-producing or transit countries in the world.

Drugs produced elsewhere are shipped from Ecuador’s Guayaquil port to the United States, Europe and Asia.

This has resulted in a bloody territorial war between gangs — some with ties to Mexican cartels according to the authorities — who brutally kill each other on the streets and in Ecuador’s overcrowded jails.

The country’s murder rate almost doubled between 2021 and 2022 from 14 to 25 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, according to official figures.

Drug seizures have skyrocketed and prison massacres have left more than 400 inmates dead since 2021.

– Test for the president –

In neighboring Colombia, extradition to the United States has proven to be a useful weapon against drug traffickers, though cocaine production is still booming.

Allowing extradition was one of eight constitutional changes proposed in the referendum, which went hand-in-hand with elections for mayors, municipal and neighborhood councils, and for a body that nominates people to key oversight posts.

The vote was also seen as a political test for Lasso, who took office in 2021 and has an unpopularity rating of 80 percent, according to a recent poll.

The opposition Citizen Revolution movement led by former socialist president Rafael Correa campaigned for the rejection of Lasso’s proposed constitutional reforms, and allies of his party appear to have done well in the country’s main cities.

The CNE has 10 days to count Sunday’s votes, and it is unclear when the final results will be announced.

The National Assembly, where Lasso’s ruling party has only 13 of the 137 seats, will have one year to implement any constitutional changes approved in the referendum.

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#Ecuadorans #reject #extradition #proposal #partial #results

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