The South American nation of Ecuador has plunged into violent chaos, highlighted by the storming of a TV station as it was broadcasting.
The incident at TC Television in Guayaquil was part of a spike in violence as a major gang leader broke out of prison while prisons became battlegrounds between gangs that control the facilities and guards trying to take back control, according to The New York Times.
News personnel were held hostage and forced to make a video asking President Daniel Noboa not to intervene.
One armed attacker storming the station wanted to be given a microphone to tell the nation about the consequences of “messing with the mafias.”
BREAKING: Gunman Storm Live TV Station in Ecuador and Take Hostages; Reports of Explosions and Police Officers Abducted
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) January 9, 2024
Police then arrived, arresting 13 people and recovering weapons and explosives.
“Thank God, we are alive, because it was an extremely violent attack,” Jorge Rendon, deputy director of the news program that was on the air when gunmen stormed the stations, told Reuters.
The gunmen “shot one of our cameramen in the leg, broke the arm of another one. The police came in minutes, surrounded the TV station and the tactical units intervened,” he said.
The Times reported that as of Tuesday afternoon, violence in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, had claimed eight lives and that five hospitals were under the control of gangs.
Noboa, who was elected last year, declared a state of “internal armed conflict” and labeled more than 20 gangs as terrorists, allowing them to be pursued by the armed forces.
“I have ordered the Armed Forces to carry out military operations to neutralize these groups,” Noboa said, according to CNBC.
Guillaume Long, former foreign minister of Ecuador, said Tuesday that security in the country had spun “out of control.”
“Ecuador ended 2023 with the highest murder rate in LatAm. But today the situation spiralled out of control: jail breaks, simultaneous attacks, gunmen storming TV studio live on air,” he said in a social media post.
On Monday, Noboa ordered a nationwide 60-day state of emergency after gang leader Adolfo Macías was found to have fled a low-security prison as he was going to be transferred to a maximum-security facility.
According to Reuters, government officials said gangs are inciting violence in response to Noboa’s call for a top-security prison for gang leaders.
“They have created a wave of violence to frighten the populace,” Admiral Jaime Vela, head of the joint command of the armed forces, said.
Reuters said the kidnappings of police officers took place in several southern cities, but that arrests were made after some of the officers were freed.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.