How did this country transform from a safe tourist destination into a hotbed of organized crime?

Comment on the photo, Paul spent about half his life as a member of a drug gang in Ecuador from the age of fifteen

  • Author, Ana Maria Raura and Blanca Moncada
  • Role, BBC – Spanish Service

“The situation is dangerous, and death could come from anywhere,” said Paul, a small, thin young man, about 30 years old.

A member of one of the most violent gangs in Ecuador, he believes he has been on a rival gang’s target list for a year and a half, and the only reason he is alive so far is because of his mother’s prayers for him. Speaking about this, he told us: “It seems that God does not want me up, and Satan does not want to take me down.”

Paul, a pseudonym, confirmed to us that he spent about half his life in the gang, having joined it – like many – as a child, when he was 15 years old. He thought it was all “noisy parties and girls.”

As we talked, during a tour of Guayaquil — the largest city in Ecuador where as many as 20 gangs are waging bloody turf wars — Paul was afraid to stay in one place for so long that his enemies wouldn’t catch up with him, so we were constantly moving until it was… Much more difficult for anyone trying to track us.

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