Car Bomb Attacks Rock Ecuador’s Major Cities as Criminal Gang, Los Lobos, Reacts to Prison Operations
Ecuador experienced a harrowing night as a series of car bomb explosions rocked its major cities, including Quito and Machala.
Notably, one of the explosions targeted an office of the National Service for Attention to Prisoners of Liberty (SNAI) in Quito. These coordinated explosions are believed to be the response of a criminal group known as Los Lobos to recent prison operations in the Turi facilities in Azuay and Cotopaxi provinces, both of which are controlled by this organization.
Direct Message to SNAI:
These bombings conveyed a direct message to the SNAI: “Stop the prison operations and transfers.” In Turi, inmates challenged law enforcement officers to enter the prison complex, and they boldly declared, “We are not afraid; we are Los Lobos.” Cotopaxi prison, another focal point for the gang, is marked by the presence of black wolf symbols, and it’s where the former Chonero leader Leandro ‘El Patrón’ Norero was killed by Los Lobos in October 2022.
Commonality in Attack Methods:
BNN Breaking gathered that a significant commonality among these attacks is the use of gas cylinders that criminals place in stolen vehicles hours before the explosions. These cylinders contain fuses and explosives, posing a severe threat to public safety.
Expansive Criminal Presence:
Los Lobos maintains a criminal presence in several provinces, including Pichincha, El Oro, Cotopaxi, Azuay, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Guayas, Loja, and Los Ríos. Any prison operation in these regions that challenges the interests of these criminal organizations can lead to violent repercussions in the cities where they exert influence.
Other Recent Incidents:
The use of car bombs is not isolated to the recent attacks; it has become a recurring threat. On August 16, criminals attempted to cause an explosion by shooting at gas cylinders placed near a Community Police Unit in Guayaquil. This incident followed police interventions in the Litoral Penitentiary, starting on July 25, 2023, which triggered terrorist attacks in Guayaquil, Durán, and Esmeraldas, all significant operational areas for the Tiguerones.
Changes in Penitentiary Dynamics:
The interventions at the Litoral Penitentiary resulted in substantial changes within the prison system. The Latin Kings’ control over pavilion one was replaced by the Tiguerones, led by Edwin Reyes, alias ‘Lala’ or ‘Comandante 6’. The Las Águilas, an armed faction of Los Choneros, now occupy pavilion three, while Los Lobos are isolated from other groups within the Cotopaxi prison.
Gang Rivalry and Isolation:
Gang leaders, including those from Los Lobos, have been isolated from their subordinates on the streets, as they currently lack communication equipment. The isolation stems from rivalries between gangs like Los Lobos, Los Choneros, Tiguerones, and the Latin Kings. A proposed truce by Chonero leader José Adolfo Macías, alias ‘Fito,’ was accepted by leaders of other gangs but excluded Los Lobos, who remain in conflict with Macías.
Origins of Los Lobos:
Los Lobos emerged in 2019 in Azuay, led by Wilmer Chavarría, alias ‘Pipo.’ Despite faking his death in 2020, ‘Pipo’ continued his criminal activities, even traveling to Turkey under a false identity. He maintained close ties with José Luis Zambrano, alias ‘Rasquiña,’ leader of Los Choneros, and became a significant arm of the organization. Following ‘Rasquiña’s’ death in late 2020, a schism in the criminal world ensued, leading to the formation of alliances and violent clashes.
Ongoing Power Struggles:
‘Pipo’ remains determined to gain control of prison centers and drug trafficking routes currently under Los Choneros’ influence. He has engaged in various attempts against ‘Fito,’ including kidnapping his daughter, attacking his son in Manta, and orchestrating the murder of several of Macías’ relatives in Manabí.
Current Focus and Legal Proceedings:
‘Fito’ is currently striving to return to the Regional prison in Guayaquil and obtain pre-release through sentence accumulation. These cases are in the hands of Judge Diego Poma, who recently granted freedom to Dritan Rexhepi, a prominent Albanian criminal figure.
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