Gang violence in Ecuador: Consequences for students 

Written by Iasmina-Măriuca Stoian 


The organized violence perpetrated by criminal gangs in Ecuador has almost taken over the lives of its citizens. Add menace and fear to fear, and several students have had to change the way they live and go to school forever. The unceasing violence follows students to school, as some students may be disrupted and killed in the process. It also hinders students’ education, and if businesses and schools are terminated, some may experience intimidation, losing any hope of ever going to school. Furthermore, it leads to economic and social insecurity due to the increase in poverty levels and unemployment where an affected student has reduced opportunity to pursue a decent future because of financial inability. The presence of gangs in the ensconced prisons and their occupancy of the streets has enabled forced recruitment and fear. Students’ capacity to learn and succeed is hampered by the hostile and unsafe environment that the persistent violence and instability produced. 

A persistent threat and an increasing concern 

In Ecuador, gang violence has been a major problem, especially in major cities like Quito and Guayaquil. The majority of killings in the nation have been committed by street gangs, including the Latin Kings, also referred to as the STAE. Concerns over the safety of the populace, particularly students, have been raised by this. To combat the rising threat posed by adolescent gangs, the government has put in place a number of measures, such as harsher penalties for individuals found in possession of weapons and without authorization. 

The fear and insecurity caused by the criminal gangs have made it necessary for students to change their patterns and live with fear daily. The education sector has been highly affected whereby shops and schools are closed to prevent being attacked, targeted, or extorted. The economic and social implications of the violence have left many in poverty and jobless, causing the majority to opt-out of essential amenities that would ensure the need for students to be in the precinct of their facilities. The recruiting of members and intimidation by gangs within prison and outside on the street has made the environment too hot for students since their safety is highly tampered with. Gangs have made the plight of students to be in an unsafe place by recruiting them and actively corrupting their morals. 

Gang violence in Ecuador has been a significant issue, especially in cities such as Guayaquil and Quito. The Latin Kings, also known as STAE, as well as other street gangs have been responsible for a large percentage of homicides in the country. This has raised concerns about the safety of the citizens, including students.  

Government’s response  

As a response to this issue, the government has implemented various policies to address the growing youth gang threat, including stricter punishment for those caught armed and without a permit. However, despite the risks of these policies, the government reports that its approach to security has been successful, with a significant reduction in homicide rates. This reduction in lethal violence has made Ecuador one of the safest countries in Latin America. The government’s approach to crime control has emphasized efforts to reach higher levels of social control based on policies of social inclusion and innovations in criminal justice and police reform. 

One notably innovative aspect of this approach was the decision to legalize several street gangs in 2007. The government claims the success of these policies can be seen in the drastic reduction in violence and criminality, including a decrease in inter-gang violence and homicide levels. The legalization process helped to improve the quality of life and security in communities, leading to a transformation in the way gangs operated and interacted with their surroundings. 

Consequences and impacts on students 

The key consequences of those violent acts were for students. The street gangs’ activity has generated the atmosphere of terror and fear, which influenced students’ capability to concentrate on the studies. Moreover, around 4.3 million children have been unable to receive an education due to the temporary transition to online classes and threats made by criminals. The latter factor also made it easier for school workers to conduct identification and try to tackle sexual violence cases, causing the reduction of the reports and the absence of help for victims. The organized crime spread only produced the negative effect, prompting the impossibility of elimination and secure reporting. Thus, the government should take urgent action to protect the rights of these children and ensure that they can learn in a safe and secure environment. 

Social inclusion as a key 

In response to this issue, the government has recognized the importance of engaging with marginalized subpopulations, including those involved in street gangs, to ensure the success of its Citizens’ Revolution. The approach to social inclusion and community empowerment has been crucial in addressing the root causes of gang violence and providing opportunities for behavioural change. 

Moving forward, the government needs to continue and highlight the social inclusion approach to street gangs as a model of best practices. This includes further formalizing the legalization process within institutions and developing strategies for effective intervention. By addressing the underlying social and economic factors that contribute to gang violence, the government can create a safer environment for students and all citizens in Ecuador. 


In light of the significant consequences of gang violence on students in Ecuador, it is imperative for the government to prioritize social inclusion and reform efforts. By addressing root causes and promoting opportunities for behavioural change, Ecuador can create a safer and more conducive environment for students to learn and thrive. 


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