Ecuador Leans on Citizens for Law-Enforcement Apparatus

Ecuadorian Interior Minister José Serrano and National Police Commander Fausto Tamayo present the "Guide to Civilian Security, Civilian Solidarity" in Quito, Ecuador.
Ecuadorian Interior Minister José Serrano and National Police Commander Fausto Tamayo present the “Guide to Civilian Security, Civilian Solidarity” in Quito, Ecuador. (National Police of Ecuador)

EspañolOn Wednesday, October 8, Ecuadorian officials from the Ministry of the Interior and National Police presented a new citizens’ manual that aims to better involve local communities across the country in crime prevention.

The “Guide for Civilian Safety, Civilian Solidarity” was first introduced last week in the south Quito neighborhood of Solada, and will now be implemented nationwide in coordination with Ecuador’s approximately 1,700 Community Police Units (UPC).

According to the Rafael Correa administration, the proposal’s objective is to engage civil society in working to resolve eight problem areas in Ecuador regarding crime: domestic violence, gender violence, gang activity, robbery and theft, drug trafficking, exploitation, alcoholism, and human trafficking.

The proposal falls within the framework of the Civilian Safety, Civilian Solidarity program, which relies on the Ministry of the Interior to prevent crime by strengthening social customs and habits. The program forms part of Ecuador’s New Model of State Management and Decentralization.

“The interesting part of this initiative is the concept of solidarity, because it encourages citizens to interact and collaborate with their neighbors when they are in trouble, and in this way arrive at practical solutions,” said Interior Minister José Serrano.

The safety guide aims to promote values and civic education to improve safety.

A Civilian Police Force?

The citizens’ guide will be distributed among UPC members and establishes criteria for reporting various crimes, as well as unifying rules for each local community assembly. Local assemblies will work alongside the police to determine which issues should be focused on in each neighborhood.

“The idea is to have the community work with the UPC to determine and help prevent the crime that is causing security issues in their area,” said Luis Varese, a security advisor to the Ministry of the Interior. Varese dismissed the idea that civilians will be physically engaged in combating crime under this program.

Byron Leap, a Solanda community leader, said he is in favor of the new safety guide and a closer working relationship with the police, citing ongoing problems in his community with gender violence and drug trafficking.

Manuel Varese, director of the Ministry of the Interior Human Trafficking Department, emphasized the idea of solidarity, suggesting Ecuadorians often deny their neighbors help when problems arise. According to Varese, many Ecuadorian crime victims say their neighbors “just watched” or did nothing when they were in danger.

The Ministry of the Interior also published a statement advising Ecuadorians on issues such as “the consumption of alcohol, cachinerías (businesses dedicated to the sale of stolen goods), the chulco (usury), domestic violence, gender violence, theft, youth relations, how to spend free time, among other issues involving daily life in local neighborhoods.”

The ministry adds that their proposal “aims to create a space for citizens to meet and generate ideas that achieve social harmony and good living.”

Secretariat for Good Living

In his quest for greater state involvement in the lives of Ecuadorians, President Correa, in office since 2007, created the General Secretariat for Planning Good Living in June 2013, under the National Secretariat for Planning and Development.

“The National Secretariat for Planning and Development is the public institution in charge of national planning in a participatory, inclusive, and cordial manner to achieve Good Living for all Ecuadorians,” states the official website.

The subsecretariat is tasked with the “investigation, promotion, evaluation, encouragement, and defense of the practices for the establishment of the new civic coexistence, based on Good Living.”

According to information provided by the Metropolitan Observatory of Civilian Security, there have been 608 homicides in Ecuador in 2014, including 117 in its capital city of Quito alone.

Translated by Peter Sacco.

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