Ecuador Sets Date for Crucial Popular Consultation on Security and Justice Reforms

The National Electoral Council (CNE) of Ecuador made a significant announcement on Wednesday, February 14th, setting the date for a popular consultation initiated by President Daniel Noboa. Scheduled for April 21st, this referendum will address critical issues spanning security, employment, and justice.

The decision emerged from a session convened to deliberate and finalize the schedule for the popular consultation and constitutional referendum. This move follows the rulings of the Constitutional Court, which prompted the formulation of 11 questions, with five of them entailing reforms to the Constitution.

Key topics slated for voting include the involvement of the Armed Forces in bolstering police efforts against organized crime, the extradition of Ecuadorian nationals, the establishment of constitutional courts, recognition of international arbitration, and the introduction of labor market flexibility through temporary and hourly contracts. Additionally, six questions focus on safety measures and combating criminal activities.

President Noboa, who assumed office on November 23rd, had proposed addressing security concerns during his election campaign and subsequently championed this initiative as part of the broader crackdown on organized crime networks that had instigated a surge in violence within Ecuadorian prisons, now under military supervision.

In response to this situation, the government declared a state of emergency and invoked “internal armed conflict,” designating 22 criminal gangs as terrorist organizations. This measure permitted the utilization of the Armed Forces to assist law enforcement in operations against these criminal syndicates.

Among the six security-related queries not entailing constitutional amendments, one pertains to granting the Armed Forces authority for ongoing surveillance of weapons, ammunition, explosives, and related items at prison entrances.

Furthermore, Ecuadorians will cast their votes on potential reforms to the Penal Code, aimed at imposing stricter penalties for offenses related to terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, murder, human trafficking, and other serious crimes.

Another crucial aspect of the consultation involves deciding on the withdrawal of prison privileges for individuals convicted of various crimes, including terrorism financing, child recruitment for criminal activities, drug trafficking, illegal mining, and possession of illicit weapons.

Additionally, the public will weigh in on proposals such as the criminalization of unauthorized possession or carrying of weapons, ammunition, or components exclusive to the Armed Forces or Police. Moreover, voters will decide on the immediate utilization of weapons confiscated from gangs or criminals by law enforcement and simplification of procedures for seizing assets of illicit origin by the state.

This referendum comes less than a year before Ecuador’s upcoming general elections, with the first round scheduled for February 9, 2025, and a potential second round on April 13, 2025. Notably, several questions posed by President Noboa in this consultation were previously rejected in a plebiscite organized last year by his predecessor, Guillermo Lasso (2021-2023), underscoring the contentious nature of these issues among Ecuadorian voters.

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