Ecuador approves extradition, anti-gang measures

A solid majority of Ecuadoran voters on Sunday approved the extradition to the United States of organized crime bosses in a referendum on measures against drug trafficking and gangs, the electoral council said.

The "yes" vote in favor of extradition received 65 percent of valid ballots, while "no" received 25 percent, according to a quick count of results, the electoral council said at a news conference.

Nearly 13.6 million of the country's 17.7 million inhabitants were eligible to cast a "Yes" or "No" on 11 referendum questions on the ballot.

President Daniel Noboa hailed the result as helping the fight against crime.

"We have defended the country, now we will have more tools to fight crime and restore peace to Ecuadoran families," Noboa said earlier after the release of an exit poll.

Once-peaceful Ecuador has been grappling with a shocking rise in violence, flaring up due to a rise in narcotics trafficking, that has seen two mayors killed this week.

If Ecuador's constitution is changed to allow extradition, the nation would follow in the footsteps of Colombia and Mexico, which have sent scores of reputed crime bosses to stand trial in the United States.

New bloodshed stained voting day as assailants shot dead a prison warden.

Damian Parrales, chief of the El Rodero prison in coastal Manabi state, "was victim of an attack that unfortunately cost him his life," the national prison authority said in a statement.

Ecuadoran prisons have become nerve centers for organized crime groups and a bloody battleground that has claimed the lives of more than 460 inmates in three years.

Parrales, who had assumed his prison post just five days ago, was gunned down as he ate lunch with his family in the town of...

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