(Reuters) – Eight people have been arrested on charges that they were involved in forcibly recruiting Ecuadoreans for armed groups, the country’s prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.
The prosecution said on its Twitter account the eight were arrested during simultaneous raids in the provinces of Imbabura, Pichincha and El Oro. It accused them of “human trafficking and recruitment for guerrilla groups outside the law.”
They said the groups approached communities in the Andean provinces of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo and in Ecuador’s Amazon region to recruit members under false pretenses.
“According to the charge sheets, Ecuadoreans were recruited with the offer of going to enroll in [study] courses in Argentina and Mexico,” said the prosecution. “They ended up in the armed camps.”
The objective was “to train them on the Colombian-Venezuelan borders,” authorities added, without giving further details.
Crime rates have grown in the South American nation, including in its prisons, which President Guillermo Lasso has attributed to his outspoken fight against drug gangs who use Ecuador as a transit point for drugs bound for the United States and Europe.
In April, Lasso declared a state of emergency in three of the country’s 24 provinces, and mobilized 9,000 members of the armed forces to patrol streets in areas with the highest homicide rates.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia, Writing by Isabel Woodford; Editing by David Gregorio)