EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Irregular migration from Ecuador picked up at the end of last year, after a substantial decrease through most of the fiscal year 2022.
Border agents encountered 35,510 Ecuadorians between October and December of last year, compared to 24,936 in all of fiscal 2022, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.
Some analysts who track the mass movement of people from that South American country worry the numbers will continue to go up and blame Ecuadorian government policies for it.
“There is no doubt we are seeing a new wave of migration and it shows the failure of the public policies of the Ecuadorian state, which result in the forced migration of its citizens,” said William Murillo, cofounder of New York City-based 1-800 Migrante. “And to top it off, these are partial numbers […] not taking into account those who eluded (the Border Patrol) and those who entered legally and overstayed their visas.”
The group says the trend points to the fiscal year 2023 topping the record 97,074 encounters with Ecuadorians that U.S. border agents reported in fiscal 2021.
“The numbers attest to the humanitarian and migration crisis the government of Ecuador refuses to acknowledge,” the group said in a statement this week. “We call on President Guillermo Lasso and his administration to declare an emergency due to the migration crisis and make good on campaign promises of extending legal protection and support to Ecuadorians abroad.”
Lasso, a banker and center-right politician, has been president of Ecuador since May 2021. On Thursday, his office tweeted that his administration has created 443,000 jobs and that unemployment is at its lowest (3.2 percent) since 2007.
However, the country was rocked by violent protests last summer led by Indigenous activists complaining about higher food and gasoline prices and demanding more social spending from the government. The protests that shut down the capital of Quito included roadblocks, attacks on civilians and vehicles, and looting of businesses, The Associated Press reported.
Global security analysts also warn drug activity and prison violence are on the rise. Jailhouse murders are up six-fold since 2020 and the port city of Guayaquil is besieged by drug gangs involved in cocaine trafficking from Peru and Colombia, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
ICG says Mexican drug cartels are behind Ecuador’s surge in drug trafficking, as they subcontract portions of their supply chain to local groups.
“Mexican (cartels) negotiate drug shipments with Colombian outfits, such as the Frente Oliver Sinisterra (a FARC dissident outfit) or Columna Móvil Urías Rondón, which send coca paste south to Ecuador,” ICG reported in November. “Local criminal groups refine the paste in laboratories and ship it in containers carrying food from Guayaquil to the U.S. and Europe.”
Cynthia Fernanda Viteri Jimenez, the mayor of Guayaquil, Ecuador, sent a letter to Lasso after a bombing and shootings claimed five lives and left 20 injured last August. “We have reached a point that it seems criminal gangs have become a state within a state in Ecuador.”
Lasso on Thursday addressed the ongoing violence, tweeting about the arrest of 19 members of the “Lobos,” “Choneros,” and “R7” gangs.
Lasso five weeks ago met with President Biden at the White House. The meeting touched on Ecuador’s problems with gang violence and security in prisons. The U.S. pledged $13.5 million in small business loans, $5 million for child nutrition, and $20 million for the reduction of carbon emissions.
The White House also facilitated a $530 million loan through the Global Concessional Financing Facility to promote sustainable development in Ecuador and to help that country with yet another challenge: the influx of Venezuelans.
Ecuador has become a transit point and in many cases a destination for Venezuelan migrants, according to the Geneva-based Assessment Capabilities Project. ACAPS reports that more than half a million Venezuelans were residing in Ecuador as of last August.
Most of those Venezuelans lack resources “to satisfy their basic needs, resulting in high levels of food insecurity,” ACAPS affirms. They are also at risk of abuse once their temporary humanitarian permits expire and lose legal access to job opportunities.