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Ecuadorians approve new security measures in referendum

Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa has won significant voter support for a raft of security measures says will help him fight sharply increased crime, a quick vote tally by the national electoral council showed.

The successful measures including joint police-military patrols, the extradition of wanted criminals and longer sentences for terrorism and murder, among other crimes, are intended to battle spiking violence that has made international headlines.

Even as voting was taking place, authorities reported the death of a prison director in the country’s western Manabi Province and a possible riot attempt at a prison in Los Rios Province.

The SNAI prisons agency provided no details about the death of director Cosme Damian Parrales, but said it was investigating.

“We have defended the country, now we have more tools to fight against crime and return peace to Ecuadorian families,” Mr Noboa posted on his Instagram account, alongside photos of himself with his wife and two of his children.

Gunmen forced a television crew onto the ground on a live broadcast during a state of emergency

The quick count by the electoral council showed between 60% and 73% backing for the security-focused measures, including tougher gun controls in areas close to prisons, no parole for crimes like kidnapping or terrorism financing, among others, and the military being able to use confiscated weapons.

Cocaine-smuggling gangs have expanded into every corner of Latin America over the last decade, turning once-tranquil nations like Ecuador into new battlegrounds, security officials and diplomats say.

In January, violence in Ecuador captured world attention when gunmen stormed a live television broadcast and scores of prison staff were taken hostage.

Polling had suggested voters would likely support the measures put forward by Mr Noboa in the 11-question referendum.

Ecuador’s CNE electoral council said voting had been peaceful, and though the installation of some polling places had been hampered by strong rains, the problems had been largely overcome.

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