Killing the Messengers

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Ecuadorian authorities began investigating a series of letter bombs addressed to TV and radio stations this week, an act officials and press advocates have described as “an absolutely clear message to silence journalists,” CBS News reported.

Interior Minister Juan Zapata said the letter bombs were sent to at least five journalists in different cities, including the capital Quito. He added that all the letter bombs consisted of USB sticks, which potentially carried explosive material.

Police in the port city of Guayaquil said one envelope contained a USB stick that exploded when a journalist plugged it into a computer. The explosion slightly injured journalist Lenin Artieda of the Ecuavisa TV station.

Law enforcement officials said that the USB drive likely carried RDX, a military-grade explosive.

Ecuador’s prosecutor general, meanwhile, launched an investigation into the “terrorism,” but did not say why the news stations were targeted.

Press groups and government officials strongly condemned the attacks.

The letter bombs underscore the issue of rising insecurity in Ecuador, a country located between Peru and Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producers.

The Latin American nation has become a hub for the global drug trade in recent years: In 2021, Ecuadorian authorities seized a record 210 tons of narcotics, mostly cocaine.

Ecuador is currently dealing with criminal gangs fighting for control of drug trafficking routes. President Guillermo Lasso has declared war on gangs that control the drug trade from prisons rife with violence – more than 400 inmates have been killed since 2021.

In 2022, Ecuador’s murder rate rose to 25 per 100,000 inhabitants, from 14 per 100,000 residents the year before.

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