Quito: Hate your neighbour? Want to get even
with your spouse`s lover? Killers for hire in Ecuador can
solve your problems for as little as 400 dollars -- and police
fear they are responsible for a recent spike in murders.
Internet-based hitmen for hire are not new in Latin
America: past cases include Mexican police investigating cyber
ads presumably set up by drug cartels seeking killers, and a
webpage allegedly set up by Colombian hitmen offerered their
services in Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and even Spain.
While some believe these ads are just part of a scams --
the alleged hitmen take money from the customer, then they
extort the victim -- Ecuadoran police are taking the ads
"Did your boss fire you and you want revenge? Do people
refuse to pay money they owe and laugh at you?" read the ad of
a hitman offering his services in the Guayaquil area.
The advertiser promises "discretion... 100 per cent
efficiency, and we deliver pictures to the client" to confirm
that the job was done.
Between January and April at least 212 people were killed
in the port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador`s most populous city.
Hitmen were responsible for at least 11 per cent of those
cases, Guayaquil public prosecutor Antonio Gagliardo told AFP.
A third of all the country`s crimes are committed in the
province of Guayas, where Guayaquil is located, and murder has
become "a common way of resolving problems of debt, enmity,
hatred, love, and struggles over land ownership," Gagliardo
In Guayas province in 2009 there were 321 homicides and
1,032 assassinations, a toll that deputy Interior Minister
Edwin Jarrin called "alarming."
Victims include a legislator`s wife and a cousin of the
head of the National Transportation Council, both shot by
Advertised prices range from 400 to 3,000 dollars,
depending on whether the victim "has a lot of money, is an
authority or is a regular person," Gagliardo said.
The government recently formed a police task force to
crack down on the hitmen, but Gagliardo admits that Ecuador
lacks the technological savvy to track the killers down in
Gagliardo said he will send legislation to Congress
proposing an increase in murder sentences from the current 12
to 24 years to 25 to 35 years in prison.
He also proposed that middlemen that arrange murders for
hire be punished with 15 years prison.
Hitmen have been operating in Ecuador for the past 15
years, in part a spillover effect from drug violence
neighboring Colombia, but their activities have recently risen
to "alarming levels," Gagliardo said.