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Ecuador 2023

Armed forces were deployed throughout the country and their powers in public security tasks were expanded. Violence increased in the lead up to the general elections. Human rights violations remained unpunished. The state of crisis in prisons continued. Indigenous Peoples’ rights continued to be violated. Flaring of gases during oil extraction persisted. Authorities failed to protect human rights defenders. Poverty and inequality affected much of the population and gender-based violence remained prevalent.


In May, faced with possible impeachment, former president Guillermo Lasso dissolved the National Assembly (Ecuador’s legislative body) and called elections for August, which culminated in run-off elections in October. Daniel Noboa was voted in as the new president, along with 137 new members of the National Assembly.

The homicide rate rose sharply, and authorities responded with emergency decrees expanding the mandate of the armed forces. A constitutional reform to grant the military greater involvement in public security tasks was approved by the National Assembly in December. A national referendum to approve its implementation remained pending at the end of the year.

Freedom of expression, association and assembly

In May, a presidential decree deployed the armed forces throughout the country, allegedly to “repress the terrorist threat” in response to organized crime groups. Subsequent decrees throughout the year expanded the mandate of the police and armed forces to enter private property to carry out searches, seize property and access correspondence.1

Unlawful attacks and killings

During the months prior to the elections, several candidates for political office were attacked or killed, including the seemingly politically motivated killing in August of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.


Serious human rights violations committed by security forces in the context of protests in 2019 and 2022 remained unpunished.

In June, Executive Decree 755 stipulated that law enforcement officials suspected of having caused injury or harm to or the death of a person could only be apprehended or removed from duty following conviction.

Detainees’ rights

The authorities declared repeated states of emergency in prisons in response to several massacres. In July, 31 prisoners were killed and dozens wounded in the El Litoral prison in Guayaquil, and 137 prison guards were temporarily taken hostage in prisons across the country. Health services in prisons remained almost non-existent, and authorities failed to properly investigate killings and treat family members of detainees with dignity.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

Indigenous Peoples’ rights were infringed by extractive projects in their territories. In May, Executive Decree 754 allowed mining companies to commence activities without Indigenous Peoples’ free, prior and informed consent. Following the decree, police and military operations in the provinces of Cotopaxi and Bolivar resulted in 18 people being wounded and two arrests. In November, the Constitutional Court declared the decree unconstitutional, but allowed it to remain in force.

Oil spills in 2020 and 2022 in the Amazon had still not been investigated, and affected communities had still not received truth, justice and reparation.

Right to a healthy environment

Authorities failed to respect their commitment to the global initiative to phase out the use of flares during the extraction of crude oil by 2030 and continued to allow the flaring of gases.

In August, during a national referendum, a majority of voters opted to protect the Yasuní National Park in the Amazon and prohibit new oil exploration in the park.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders continued to be stigmatized, harassed, attacked or killed for carrying out their work. Defenders of territory, land and the environment were at particular risk. Authorities continued to fail to protect human rights defenders.

In February, Eduardo Mendúa, a leader from the A’i Cofán Indigenous People, was shot dead. Mendúa had been vocal in opposing oil drilling in the area. In April, the minister of energy and Mines publicly stigmatized lawyer and environmental activist Pablo Fajardo as an “international criminal”.2

Economic, social and cultural rights

Large sectors of the population continued to face socio-economic obstacles to access their rights to health, food and water, among others. Poverty rates remained above pre-Covid-19 levels as of June 2023, with 27% of the population living in poverty and 10.8% in extreme poverty. Public health spending continued to fall short of the 6% of GDP target recommended by the Pan American Health Organization.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty visited the country in September and expressed alarm at the enormous disparity in poverty rates between urban and rural areas. According to the rapporteur, rural areas registered rates of multidimensional poverty as high as 70%, with poverty most pronounced in areas with large Indigenous populations. The rapporteur said that the acute poverty made young people easy recruits for organized crime and called on the authorities to continue improving the progressivity of the tax system.

Women’s and girls’ rights

Several obstacles persisted that inhibited women from living free of violence. More than 1,500 gender-based killings had been committed since 2014, according to civil society organizations.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Date-of-entry eligibility requirements imposed undue restrictions on the exceptional temporary residence visa for Venezuelan citizens (VIRTE), affecting the enjoyment of temporary protection for more than half a million Venezuelan nationals living in Ecuador.3Lack of regular status prevented Venezuelan women survivors of gender-based violence from accessing protection and care services.

  1. “Ecuador: Authorities must safeguard human rights amidst pre-electoral violence”, 10 August
  2. “Ecuador: Ecuadorian human rights defender Pablo Fajardo stigmatized”, 28 April
  3. Americas: Regularization and Protection: International Obligations for the Protection of Venezuelan Nationals, 21 September