Sunday, March 3, 2024

Argentina arrests, deports family of Ecuador’s most-wanted fugitive | Drugs News

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Drug boss Jose Adolfo Macias is at large after escaping from an Ecuadorean prison, triggering wave of gang violence.

The wife and children of Ecuador’s most-wanted fugitive, drug kingpin Jose Adolfo Macias, were arrested in Argentina and have been deported to Ecuador.

The Los Choneros gang leader, known as “Fito”, escaped from a prison in the port city of Guayaquil this month, leading to a surge in gang violence across Ecuador that prompted President Daniel Noboa to declare a 60-day state of emergency in the country, which is home to 17.8 million people.

Argentina’s security minister Patricia Bullrich said: “We are proud that Argentina was a hostile territory for a group of drug dealers who could’ve come to settle here. Mr Fito had a sentence of 38 years and he escaped, leaving a trail of blood and death in Ecuador.”

Fito’s wife Mariela Macias, her three children, a nephew, a family friend and a nanny were deported, Bullrich told a news conference on Friday.

Mariela arrived in Argentina two weeks ago just before her husband escaped. In December, they bought a house in an exclusive neighbourhood of Cordoba, in central Argentina, in cash.

The authorities were still investigating whether Fito only sent his family to Argentina or if he was or is in the country, Al Jazeera’s Latin America editor Lucia Newman reported from Buenos Aires.

Soldiers stand guard outside Simon Bolivar airbase in Guayaquil after the wife and children of fugitive drug trafficker Jose Adolfo Macias were deported to Ecuador from Argentina [Vicente Gaibor del Pino/Reuters]

Cordoba official Juan Pablo Quinteros said the family’s temporary residence permit had been cancelled, allowing the authorities “to detain them and expel them from the country”.

Interior minister Guillermo Francos said: “Argentina will not be a den for criminals.”

Fito escaped on January 7 from a prison in Guayaquil where he was serving time for various crimes, including drug trafficking and murder.

Authorities have tied Los Choneros to extortion, murder and drug trafficking and accuse the group of controlling Ecuador’s crime-plagued and overcrowded prisons.

Under the state of emergency declared after Fito disappeared, the military was deployed onto the streets and a nationwide nightly curfew was mandated.

Incidents in January alone have included an on-air attack by armed men on a TV station, the taking of more than 200 prison officials hostage and the kidnapping of police officers, as well as the murder of a prosecutor pursuing organised crime.

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