Ecuador: The Más Seguridad (More Security) plan looks to a consistent strategy

The Más Seguridad plan, which was suspended 11 years ago, has been renewed. On the 15th of August, principal security forces signed an interdepartmental agreement on the matter.

The meeting, chaired by the Mayor of Guayaquil, Cynthia Viteri, was attended by high-ranking representatives from the National Police, the Integrated Emergency Services ECU911, the National Telecommunications Corporation (CNT), the Guayaquil Corporation for Citizen Safety(CSCG), the Guayaquil Metropolitan Police, the Guayaquil Fire Department, the Municipal transit Agency (ATM), the Armed Forces, and the Municipal Department of Justice and security.

The reprised programme will be implemented with the support of the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Interior, the Crown Prosecution service, and the private sector. It is hoped that this interdepartmental collective will enable the organisations responsible for citizen safety, public order, and other areas, to work together for the common good. The objective is to promote a culture of prevention and citizen participation, monitor policy, and carry out regular assessments and reporting.

In the interest of improving safety, Guayaquil has volunteered resources, equipment, and personnel. Eight million US dollars have been earmarked for the purchase of 120 surveillance cameras. One of the strategies is to combine the government’s 1,100 cameras operated by the CSCG with the 500 operated by the Integrated Emergency Services ECU911.

Also anticipated is the purchase of 600 panic buttons for the “Amiga ya no estás sola (Friend, now you’re not alone)” plan, along with 600 bodycams (500 for the Metropolitan Police and 100 for the Tourism Police).  Finally, investments will be made for a new call-centre and a centre for facial recognition and video analytics.

The Ministry of the Interior underlined the fact that the plan is intended as a shock treatment for violence, drug trafficking, illegal mining, child pornography, femicide, possession of arms, etc. In Ecuador last year, more fatalities occurred in social circumstances than in criminal ones.

The plan will concentrate on areas or neighbourhoods with the highest incidences of criminal activity, such as the Modelo and 9 de Octubre districts, two of the busiest commercial areas in Guayaquil.

The Ministry of the Interior’s statistics show that this central commercial area has the highest rate of shoplifting. Between January and March 2019, there were 284 reported cases, constituting a 10.08 % increase on the figures published for the same period in 2018.

The Más Seguridad plan includes the establishment of integrated workgroups where businesses, journalists, academics, politicians, etc. can debate and put forward solutions and suggestions for improving security.

The workgroups will draft their ideas on how to improve the security services and judicial system, on the correct processing of information about crimes, overall support for victims, and peaceful coexistence.


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The United States and El Salvador sign an agreement on security and migration

El Salvador - USAThe United States and El Salvador have signed a cooperation agreement on security and migration. Under the terms of the agreement, El Salvador has committed to working with the United States to improve border controls and exchange information on organised crime.

The United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and the Foreign Minister of El Salvador, Alexandra Hill, signed the deal following a meeting in which they discussed issues surrounding youth gangs, migration and economic development.

It’s hoped that improvements to El Salvador’s border controls will not only reduce the flow of illegal migrants but also help to tackle the operations of youth gangs and the illegal trafficking of minors.

Another important aspect of the agreement is that the United States has committed to cooperating in the fight against youth gangs and crime, which in the broadest sense of the terms can be understood to include human trafficking, organ smuggling, kidnapping of people for the purposes of selling them into slavery, etc.

El Salvador has committed to sharing biometric data and real-time information on the movements of suspects through both its air and land borders. This could include anyone attempting to enter the country with falsified documents or those wanted for committing crimes by other countries, often related to crimes associated with drug-trafficking.

For their part, the North-Americans recognised efforts made by the Salvadoran authorities to combat and reduce the flow of illegal migration. Furthermore, they explained that help from the United States will be provided on different fronts and will include assisting the police to improve their operational capabilities and increasing access to work visas for Salvadorans.

Despite this, the North-American representatives made clear the agreement does not constitute the establishment of El Salvador as a safe third country, as in the cases of Mexico and Guatemala.

McAleenan concluded that they would continue meetings with representatives of the private sector and that they are open to discussing tariff tables, with the intention of making them more favourable to foreign investment.


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Maximum alert in El Salvador’s prisons

The President of ’El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, at the beginning of July, decreed  maximum alert, indefinitely,  in the country’s prisons as a means of pressure to get “gangs” to put an end to homicides.

The case is that alleged members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) murdered another police officer. Furthermore, at this time, at the end of June, members of MS13 detained a bus with 40 people on board, robbing them and raping two women.

With the death of the latest police officer, 23 officers of the National Civil Police have been murdered in 2019, as well as the murder of 12 soldiers and two prison officers, all of which were carried out by “gangs”.

Hence, one of the measures involved in this state of emergency is that of keeping inmates inside their cells 24 hours a day. Moreover, over a thousand gang members were transferred to more secure prisons from an exclusive prison complex that was exclusively for members of the Barrio 18 gang. Accordingly, the policy, due to the existing rivalry, of placing members of the rival “gangs” Barrio 18 and MS13 comes to an end. This way, the idea of a prison being used for one particular gang is rejected, as the gang ended up imposing their own rules.

At the same time, the government has obliged telephone companies that operate in the country to cut off all prisons to stop communication with the gang outside, to whom they give orders.

With these prison transfers, the idea is to try to abort the orders of gang leaders in their areas and dismantle possible criminal atrocities.

One of the measures required by the President of the country is to meet the request for over 30 million dollars to finance the security plans to deal with the “gangs”. There has been an attempt to pass this budget allocation after the first stage of a plan to recuperate areas controlled by “gangs” in 16 municipalities, including the capital, where there was an attempt to attack the finances of these criminal groups.

It has also been announced that special police forces and armed forces will be sent to pursue gang members.

El Salvador is one of the world’s most violent countries with its homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants, which over recent years has peaked at 103 deaths, mainly attributed the activities of the “gangs”.


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Chile presents the Plan Calle Segura (Safe Street Plan) that extends preventive identity controls

The President of Chile, Sebastian Piñera, presented the so-called Plan Calle Segura to the National Congress, aimed at preventing crime in the public spaces of cities and that extends preventive identity controls and authorises it to apply it from the age of fourteen.

One of the justifications for going ahead with this plan is because it is considered that the primary concern of Chileans is crime and drug trafficking and so this must be addressed.

As part of the plan #CalleSegura an intense Agenda of Public Security was put into place, including the modernisation of the police and the investigations police service, a greater police presence in the streets with over 3,000 officers, an important investment in technology with cameras and drones and the so-called Antiportonazos Law.

This law must allow officers to carry out controls in the streets with greater ease, including the inspection of clothes, backpacks and accessories when it is appropriate to prevent, in accordance with this law, crimes more effectively. It will also involve anyone over fourteen, given that according to Chilean police statistics, between 20 and 30% of violent crime – theft with violence, ambushes, etc. – are committed by youths.

Despite the low rate of complaints for inappropriate conduct against officers during such procedures, the law also includes measures to prevent abuse and discrimination. And this law comes into being with numerous voices that have questioned the legitimacy and utility of this measure.

One of the most questioned aspects of the new law is that as part of a plan to deter criminal conduct, it is expected that technology –cameras, drones, registration plate readers…- collaborate to control crimes taking place in the street.

Accordingly, with comparative experience and what is stressed by urban criminology, the limits of such types of initiatives are explained, not only in terms of the perception of security, but also with relation to the reduction of crime in urban spaces. Therefore, opting for an investment in technology as government policy can turn out to be insufficient.

Some voices have warned defenders of the Plan Calle Segura that crime control not only involves surveillance of streets and technological control of the environment, as an appropriate and balanced planning of public spaces and cities must also be considered.


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A move towards a crime-free future?

For most people, withdrawal from crime is a process, or rather an event. This project published by the Rand Corporation, produced an easy-to-use questionnaire to be used by those who worked with offenders to acquire intermediate results: positive exchange indicators that can indicate progress towards a crime-free future.

The research shows that, especially for criminals with deeply rooted social and personal problems, withdrawal from crime is not a one-time event. Often, it is a long-term process of fundamental change to their own identity, to their values and lifestyle, which involves periods of abstention caused by a transgression interrupted by relapses.

The effectiveness of services for criminals is normally evaluated on the basis of the rate of recurrence. However, these results are better measured over long periods of time and require access to reliable data concerning convictions or other offence-related measures. This is not feasible for many interventions, in the short term, for criminals freed by organisations without the time or resources necessary to carry out an analysis of recurrence. Moreover, some interventions, such as cultural programmes in prison or tutorials, have the objective of supporting the withdrawal process, rather than ending the criminal process.

This study aims to identify and develop a tool to measure intermediate results. This would involve changes in skills and thinking directly or indirectly associated with reductions in recurrence, which could indicate that a criminal is making positive changes towards a crime-free future, but has still not managed to do so. For example, intermediate results can include improved problem solving skills, better time management and increased resilience.

The project focused on developing a measurement tool for those who offer tutorial and arts programmes for criminals. In particular, community sector and volunteer organisations.

painting creative artThe project is based on close collaboration and cooperation with a series of suppliers that offer programmes and arts to criminals. With an iterative process of bibliographic research, consultations, valid tests and analysis, the research team produced an academically informed questionnaire of 29 articles, called the Instrument of Measurement of Intermediate Results (IOMI). Along with the OMI, the researchers also developed a cost tool, a guidance tool and a tool for entering data.

The IOMI measuring tool and the other materials that make up the tool kit provide an easy-to-use package that arts suppliers and tutors can use (and possibly many other types of intervention) to assess the impact of its own work relatively quickly and directly.

The IOMI is not a completely validated instrument, but preliminary tests showed clear signs that the instrument has value, internal consistency, stability and the potential to reflect change with most intermediate results it measures”.

The IOMI, in theory, is informed and based on accurate reviews of evidence and on an in-depth consultation with suppliers of programmes of tutorials and arts.


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Stopping the illegal trafficking of mercury and gold to the west of Africa

In August 2017 the Minamata Convention came into effect related to the use of mercury, an element that has a great impact on a world scale and more specifically on 15 states in the west of Africa. In the convention, the states agreed to reduce, and if possible to eliminate, the use of mercury and its by-products, and also the emissions of this caused particularly by mining activity. During the process of extraction of gold in the region, very simple techniques involving little economic investment are used. Mercury is often used to separate the metal from the mineral and generally those people who treat this element are exposed to health problems such as intoxications and burns. The west of Africa is one of the richest areas in gold deposits, and mercury plays an essential part in this activity, as 2-3 million skilled miners use it to extract gold, and the sale of this means great revenue for the country’s economy. Most of the countries that make up the region of the west of Africa have signed and ratified this convention.

Curbing Illicit Mercury and Gold Flows in West AfricaA study published by Global Initiative against transnational organized crime stresses that the use of mercury and its by-products and their emissions have negative consequences for the African countries involved. Almost all the mercury is exported from the west of Africa. Although great amounts are imported illegally, there is a lot of informal trade, undercover and not recorded, which is on the increase. To give an example, nationals from Burkina Faso are considered to be responsible for most of the illegal trade and countries like the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ghana are the main consumers. Data related to mercury imports are included in the data estimations of mercury consumption, meaning that most mercury flows are illegal. Hence, if quantities of mercury are supplied, the flow of gold is also ensured. In this way, the supply chains both of gold and mercury create a strong circle that is very difficult to break.

The ECOWAS(Economic Community of Western African Countries stresses the need to include different institutions and government actors in order to discuss measures to coordinate mercury flows and combat illegal flows. Togo, for example, stresses the need for cooperation between countries. The Global Initiative study proposes the following recommendations:

  • Improve knowledge of mercury flows.
  • Standardise specific mercury regulating frameworks.
  • Provide an incentive for miners to extract gold without the use of mercury.
  • Focus regional efforts on the hubs of supply lines.
  • Harmonise the regimes of gold exports.
  • Strengthen regulating supervision of gold imports in end-of-destination hubs.

Links of interest:


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To recover a mutual understanding in terms of defence between the United States and the European Union: the objective of the EUISS in Brussels

The growing interest of the maximum representatives of the European Union and its member states is to strengthen European self-sufficiency in terms of defence, and to even create a European army, has caused concern in the United States, the main partner of European countries in the military and defence field for the moment. The initiative, promoted in particular by the German chancellor Angela Merkel and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has been seen by the government presided by Donald Trump as a threat to NATO. A partly contradictory reaction bearing in mind that the current president of the United States has repeatedly reminded the countries of the European Union of its insufficient contribution to the common defence budget and its excessive dependence regarding NATO.

Faced with the American reaction, Europe has denied that the possible future army of the Union will be an alternative to NATO, as both will complement each other. In order to share opinions and initiatives regarding the reactivation of the common defence of the European Union and resolve misunderstandings with the transatlantic partner, and also to address other issues affecting global security, EU Security Studies Institute, The Dutch International Relations Institute(l’Institut Cligendael) and the Centre for New American Security organised a round table in Brussels on 3rd October. The objective was to debate and design common strategies for recent events that have an impact on global security and especially transatlantic relations, like the European Union’s role in the negotiations for denuclearisation between North Korea and the United States and Turkey’s posture in relation to NATO.

Both the speakers from the United States and those from European countries agreed on the fact that it was necessary to continue working in the same direction in order to address the questions that threaten the established and agreed international order.

During the first round table, dedicated to debating the future of transatlantic relations in terms of defence, the European speakers pointed out that the mission of the Union to be more autonomous could in no way be interpreted as a wish to be isolated and distanced from the USA. The members from the USA adopted a somewhat critical posture regarding the declarations of their president, and stressed the efforts made by the EU, although they did express certain concern about such efforts distancing it from Washington. Members from both sides of the Atlantic finally concluded that more clarification regarding the complementary roles of the European Union and NATO were necessary

In the second debate the important contribution of the European Union to the NATO budget was advocated, which is higher than 2% of the established GDP. Apart from the direct contribution, members pointed out that the sanctions imposed on the continent’s neighbouring countries involve a higher cost to the EU than to the United States. Several speakers regretted that Donald Trump’s vision of Europe as an enemy rather than an ally was impeding cooperation between the two entities, as it would appear that the president’s intention was to erode and weaken Europe.

During the lunch, the issue was the denuclearisation of North Korea and the role to be played by the European Union. From the start the point was raised that Pyongyang would agree to sit with the EU at the negotiation table due to the Asian country’s neutral vision and the fact that the EU envisaged no other mechanism than that of negotiation and peaceful measures was expressed. Moreover, the European Union could help North Korea to begin a hypothetical economic opening. Some speakers, however, were rather sceptical about the real possibility of denuclearisation in the country led by Kim Jong-un.

Finally, at the last round table the issue of the complicate relationship between the United States and Turkey was addressed. It was brought to light that the main reasons for the distancing between Trump and Erdogan were linked to the late reaction of the American government to the attempted coup d’état in 2016 and the arrest of the American pastor Andrew Brunson, and also due to the support that the United States gave to Syria for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), considered to be enemies of Turkey. The acquisition of Russian weapons by Turkey made relations even more difficult between Washington and Ankara. Nevertheless, the European speakers stated that they did not want to lose Turkey as a strategic ally for a range of geopolitical reasons.

After the meeting, it seems that neither the American experts nor those of the European countries had any interest in creating distance between the two entities when addressing threats to global security as such a scenario would weaken both Europe and the USA.


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The citizen penalty points cards, a reality in China

china chinese city forbidden kingdom
The Chinese government is developing a ‘social credit’ system that facilitates the rating of citizens according to their behaviour and level of trustworthiness, offering rewards or imposing penalties depending on their behaviour. This programme, which is presented as a mechanism to guarantee national security and social stability, is expected to be completely operational in 2020.

Nevertheless, the first touches are already starting to be applied. Among them is the prohibition to buy plane or train tickets applicable to people who have lost points for having smoked in carriages, having used expired tickets, or having spread fake news, especially if these are related to terrorist attacks or airport security.

Other actions that could lead to a loss of points are the publication of online political posts without permission, contradicting the government’s official narrative, committing driving offences or spending too much time playing video games. Conversely, other types of behaviour like participating in charities or giving blood help to increase ratings and climb positions.

A position that will determine fundamental aspects such as the possibility of being accepted in certain schools (for the person in question or his or her children), sign into hotels, hold public positions or rent an apartment. It will be more difficult for people with a ‘citizen rating’ to have access to these, just as it will be more complicated to obtain visas to travel abroad. On the other hand, those who have a high rating will benefit from discounts on energy bills, faster access to Internet or better conditions when applying for a bank loan.

The exact methodology used to determine these ratings is kept secret, but it is thought that it will be based on artificial intelligence and big data, which will help to build profiles of all citizens based on the types of purchases they make, financial transactions, personal and professional contacts, the use of social networks or interactions with official organisms. Although the Chinese authorities uphold the idea that this system will enable them to control the level of civility and reduce the crime rate, thereby improving public security, a significant number of organisations like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International have warned of how this endangers rights and civil liberties, especially with regard to the right to privacy, data protection and freedom of expression. An especially worrying situation if we bear in mind that the level of Internet freedom in China, according to Freedom House, is the worst on the planet.


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South Africa tries to combat its endemic high levels of violence

The cost of violence to the South African economy is among the highest in the world. The country is in126th place out of 163 countries in the Global Peace Index. This index shows us that the cost of South African violence amounts to 19% of the GDP, the 16th highest in the world (34,160 rand per citizen each year).

South Africa stands out in the five main violence-related categories: the number of violent crimes, the number of violent protests, the number of murders, easy access to weapons and an elevated perception of insecurity. It is the 10th worst country regarding the general reduction of violence and 19th if we refer to security in general.

Both the data provided by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the data provided by the Crime Survey (VOCS) reveal that levels of violence have remained high, with relatively insignificant variations. During the budget period from April 2015 to March 2016, 18,673 murders and 18,127 attempted murders were recorded. Furthermore, the police were aware of 259,165 cases related to drug trafficking.

The underlying problem is that the long years of apartheid with institutionalised violence have contributed to its becoming prevalent in society, which uses it to resolve any situation as a completely normal approach.

The National Development Plan wishes to improve conditions of violence with an objective to be met in 2030. This plan aims to build safe communities, regarding security as a basic human right. The plan involves physical security and the social dimension, such as employment, education and health, and aims to put an end to the culture of violence, making it very residual and undesirable.

The community dimension is central to the plan and, therefore, local governments have an important role, as they are the closest administrations to the general public. These have a central position in the coordination and integration of policies in order to create secure communities.

Community Security Forums are created (CSF) on a local scale. This organ is where coordination, monitoring and the integration of community prevention initiatives will take place. The objective is to guarantee quality services and create secure communities. These strategies are done in coordination with the different agencies of local and state administrations.

Improvements in economic development with equity will cause, according to the plan, an economic transformation, the creation of employment and improvements in education and healthcare, and will assist social cohesion. And this will all have a positive effect on insecurity, generating more security.

The final objective is that in 2030 South African citizens will feel more secure and will not be afraid of being a victim of crime. This security will have to be present at school, at work and in other community-related fields.

Link of interest:

What is the situation in South Africa?


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EJECT PROJECT: Crimes with firearms, an expulsion order in Jackson, Mississippi

In the US city of Jackson, Mississippi, with the application of the EJECT project, people who are detained for illegal possession of firearms or involved in some criminal activity with firearms will be ejected from the territory and will serve their sentence far away.

In December 2017 the Prosecutor of the South East District of Mississippi presented the “EJECT” project for the city of Jackson Mississippi. This project aims to combat violent crime in the city and contemplates, as a leading measure, the expulsion from the territory of people involved in firearm-related criminal activity.

People who are arrested for illegal possession of firearms or involved in some criminal activity using firearms will have no possibility of bail and will be ejected from the territory.

A dozen officers from federal and state agencies will help the Jackson Police Department with this project, in what is presented as a collaboration and cooperation project involving different levels of the US penal justice system.

Those responsible for the programme state that if you violate our law and terrorise our residents, you will be expelled from our community and you will serve your sentence far away from Jackson.

The programme has started to be met with scepticism on the part of residents, criminologists and political representatives of all tendencies. Even the mayor of Jackson highlights differences between municipal plans and this project.

Critics state that the basis of the Project is an attack on people under the guise of protecting them as it ignores constitutional rights, like the right to bail  or sending those accused away from Mississippi given the problems this causes their families..



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