Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Eric Livingston

Expats Don’t Move to Ecuador in 2024, Ecuador Is Now Dangerous

Violence Spike in Ecuador

Two Ecuadorian military men stand on guard with rifles as a medicine truck passes by.
Two soldiers stand guard as medical truck drives by

Ecuador has experienced a significant increase in violence in recent times. Guayaquil, the port city, with the largest population is the most dangerous city in Ecuador. 1,390 violent deaths were recorded in the first half of 2023, almost equal to the total for the entire year of 2022. The city has become the epicenter of violence, with hitmen aka “sicarios”, kidnappers, and thieves roaming the streets. My daughter, who happens to live in Guayaquil, told me about car bombs being placed throughout the city. I’m not trying to scare people from visiting Ecuador; however, I don’t think December 2023 as I edit this or 2024 is the best time to re-locate your entire life to Ecuador. At least wait until security improves, which is hopefully soon.

Ecuador’s Banana Exports Are the Perfect Vehicle for Drug Smuggling

Ecuador’s Banana Exports Are the Perfect Vehicle for Drug Smuggling

Ecuador is the number one country in the world in banana exports. According to World Top Exports Ecuador exported US$3.5 billion worth of bananas to 67 countries in 2021. Narcos have figured out just how efficient of vehicle bananas are for transporting illegal drugs throughout the world. The security situation in Ecuador has escalated to a crisis, with the country plagued by uncontrolled violence.

The Once Peaceful Andean Nation has Turned Violent

Ecuador was once the go to place for Expats with places like Cuenca being popular for 20 years now and heavily promoted on well-known expat sites. Once-peaceful Ecuador has descended into a violent, chaotic country although most expat sites that sell re-location tours will never admit to the current day situation in 2024. Although Ecuador is not considered a cocaine or drug producing nation, it is sandwiched between Peru and Colombia, the two monsters of illicit drug production. Ecuador has turned into the vessel for the transportation of these narcotics mainly through the use of their banana exports.

Lots of bananas grouped together.
Bananas are used as a way for drugs smugglers to export their products from Ecuador.

Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate Fernando Villavicencio is Assassinated

The assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio on August 9, 2023, has solidified the sad, unfortunate reality facing Ecuador. He was murdered after leaving a campaign event in Quito, the nation’s capital. His death sent shockwaves throughout the country, serving as a chilling reminder of the high levels of violence and the risks faced by all citizens living in Ecuador1. Lack of security is now the top concern for Ecuadorians. According to La Prensa’s English website 2022 closed with 25 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest figure in the Ecuador’s history. However, those numbers could be surpassed in 2023 as in just the first quarter there was a 66% increase in homicides.

Ecuador’s Rapid Increase in Violence is a Reminder for Expats and Citizens Alike to Seek Current Information

It’s so important to stay up to date on current news and current living standards through the world and in this case Latin America. For example, just a few years ago El Salvador was the most dangerous country in the Americas. Now it appears that has all changed. President Nayib Bukele reported in January of 2023 that El Salvador had gone 300 days without a single homicide marking it the safest span in the country’s 201-year history as a result of his government’s war on the Mara Salvatrucha Gang aka MS-13 which was launched in March of 2022. El Salvador has made a remarkable stride in the right direction. It’s great to see leaders that have the “cajones” to accomplish what he has.

Expats Need to Stop Reading Old Articles and Watching Outdated YouTube Videos for Important Information

There are numerous YouTubers, for example, that “promote” Ecuador. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, however, I take issue with it when the information they are currently dishing out to people in 2023 states things such as “…it’s mostly petty crime”. I’m quoting word for word what one particular YouTube channel had to say about living in Ecuador in the second half of 2023. Check out this one article that has a timetable of violent crimes that occurred in Ecuador on November 1, 2022, just one day! I’m sorry there’s nothing “petty” about the current state of rampant violence in Ecuador and Expat YouTubers and relocation companies need to own up to the facts that currently plague Ecuador. If they don’t, they’re fraudulent, plain and simple.

YouTube Creators and Blog Writers in the Expat Business Have a Duty to be Transparent with Their Audience

Expat YouTube creators and expat relocation companies need to acknowledge that it’s their duty to be transparent with their audience. I, for example, live in Mérida, Yucatán at the moment and I constantly hear people refer to a report done by one website called CEO World Biz (although their business name is “CEO Magazine”). The article states “…Abu Dhabi has been ranked the safest city in the world, according to the statistical analysis (2019)” but doesn’t explain how they got their “statistical analysis”. In any event, it states that Mérida, Yucatán is number 21 worldwide, and the second safest city in the Americas behind Quebec, Canada. That’s great, I live here, but the issue is five-fold.

What is “CEO World Magazine” and what topical authority do they have to rank the safest cities? What criteria or data was used?
That article is littered with advertisements and has formatting issues.
I just don’t see the correlation between “CEO’s” and the world’s safest city rankings.
Were all cities really involved in the report?
The report is about to be 5 years old as it came out in 2019.

Be Cognizant of What You’re Reading and Viewing Regarding Expat Life in Latin America

Be careful of unsubstantiated statistical reports, especially when you’re not provided with the method behind their findings nor the expertise a certain company or organization has. I mean apparently, that company specializes in “CEO things”, however I see they have a “Write for Us” menu item and get contributors from wherever. I don’t see the correlation between all things CEO and ranking the safety of all the cities around the world. A report from the United Nations or a similar organization would be more reputable. I’m not claiming that their report is flawed but they don’t mention how they got their findings or where the data came from. That, in and of itself, is a flaw.

Theft is a Problem in All of Latin America

My point is, Latin America, in general is not “safe”. It just isn’t. I’m just being honest. I’m not referring only to violent crime. In that respect I’d still say Mérida is very safe but don’t get it twisted and think Mexico is Japan. It’s not. Your shit will get stolen if you’re not careful. Colombia has major issues with Colombian girls drugging foreigners with scopolamine and robbing them for all they got in apartments and hotel rooms and Americans have died. These clueless passport bros actually think Colombian Tinder hotties want something to do with them. It’s sad. Ecuador and Venezuela are a no-go zone, and Brazil and Mexico are both consistently at the top of the list for homicides per capita. San Pedro Sula, Honduras? Uh, no thanks. Argentina, who just elected a new president, Javier Milei, dubbed Argentina’s Trump, has been experiencing Venezuelan type inflation. The far right-wing conservative won convincingly with 56% of the vote. He has vowed to dismantle unnecessary governmental institutions. Javier Milei also promised to change Argentina’s currency to this U.S. dollar, a move Ecuador made in 2000, El Salvador in 2021 (alongside Bitcoin) and Panama, whose Balboa has always been pegged at a 1:1 ratio with the U.S. dollar since its inception in 1904. Both Balboa coins and U.S. bills are legal tender.

So Why I Am Here?

I just am. I have no family left in the U.S. and have no real reason to return. Most people expatriate (really immigrate, let’s call it what it is) to Latin America for one reason only, money. They won’t admit it. They’ll say it’s because of U.S. politics, or they’ll bring up mass shootings, but that’s not the real reason. It’s cheaper, plain and simple. I’ve said this many times. Financially successful Americans with a nice home and family don’t give it all up and immigrate to Latin America. They just don’t. The only exception to this rule may be successful YouTubers but they typically don’t stay in one place for too long. I’ll admit I really like the Mexican culture. Mexico City (CDMX) is awesome as long as you can deal with the hate you’ll see on flyers calling you a “fucking plague” from locals complaining of gentrification. You should just know the risks you’re taking when going anywhere in Latin America. Don’t be scared, Latin America is amazing in so many ways, but keep your head on a swivel.

My Bicycle Was Stolen from “Safe” Mérida, Yucatán on Thanksgiving Day, 2023

My bicycle was stolen yesterday on November 23, 2023, Thanksgiving Day. I live in a gated “privada” in the northern “safe” part of Mérida. I’m upset about my bike. I know it’s just a possession that can be replaced but I feel violated. I’m not sure how to explain it. I mean someone came right up to my “cochera“, took my bike and walked out the side door or perhaps the gate was open or something. I should’ve kept the bike inside my condo, but I figured “Mérida is so safe”. I’ve been here 4 years now and my neighbor’s house was previously broken into and robbed where I used to live in north Mérida. The takeaway is this. In terms of serious violence Mérida is quite safe. In terms of theft, it’s like any other place in Latin America. Perhaps a bit less theft than Medellín or Bogotá with 2 guys on motorbikes snatching bags and cell phones but you have to lock up your belongings.

Many Crimes Go Unreported in Latin America

It’s common in most Latin countries not to bother reporting certain crimes as people know that the police won’t really do anything about it. I’m betting that even more violent crimes go unreported in Latin America than in the United States. What happened to me yesterday on Thanksgiving is a prime example of people not reporting a crime. I’d probably file a police report at least if it happened in the U.S. I don’t know maybe I wouldn’t but at least I’d be heard and taken somewhat seriously. Here? Forget it. Your cell phone was stolen? Oh well. Someone broke into your car? Oh well. They stole your bike in a gated community? You get the point.

I’ll Always Have Fond Memories of Ecuador

Eric feeding an iguana lettuce with pigeons all around at Parque Seminario aka Parque Bolivar aka Parque de las Iguanas in Guayaqui, Ecuador.
Me feeding an Iguana lettuce at Parque Seminario aka Parque Bolivar aka Parque de las Iguanas

Ecuador has a very special place in my heart. I was last there in 2020 and I had a great time. I lived in both Guayaquil and Quito. In 2020 I visited Cuenca for the first time. I remember going to Salinas on the weekends from Guayaquil. It saddens me that Ecuadorians are going through this right now. Oh, I almost forgot. My daughter’s mother told me that Guayaquil still suffers from constant power outages, a problem that has plagued the country for 30 years or so. They’re going back to programmed power cuts throughout the day. I’ve lived this, it sucks. You have to make sure you make your coffee before “se va la luz”. As much as I like Ecuador, I wouldn’t recommend ANYONE to relocate their lives there in 2023. Do your own research and take advice from Ecuadorians like my daughter and her mom that actually live there and decide for yourself if it’s the best place to expatriate in 2023. I’m sure you’ll find it’s not. Hopefully it’ll return to the wonderful, peaceful Andean nation it once was but for now don’t go.

Ecuador Elects Youngest President Amidst a Bloody Campaign

Daniel Noboa, a 35-year-old entrepreneur, made history as Ecuador’s youngest president following his victory on Sunday, October 15, 2023. With over 97% of the votes tallied, Noboa, a centrist candidate, held a four-percentage-point lead over his left-wing opponent, Luisa González. González gracefully accepted defeat and extended her congratulations to Noboa. During his triumphant address, Noboa pledged to “restore happiness and tranquility to the nation,” emphasizing his commitment to bringing peace to the to the Andean nation plagued by violence.

  1. Ecuador’s escalating security crisis: A nation plagued by uncontrolled violence | The Week ↩︎

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