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Quest Means Business
Ecuador Unrest Spikes After State of Emergency Declared; Loose Bolts, Other Issues Found on Grounded Planes; US Defense Secretary Treated for Prostate Cancer; Unrest in Ecuador Increased Following Declaration of State of Emergency; live Television Broadcast in Ecuador Disrupted by Armed Men; Interview with Chatham House Senior Research Fellow for Latin America Christopher Sabatini. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired January 09, 2024 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN HOST: Well, the pain continues on Wall Street.
US markets down for another day after a miserable start to the year, down just 50 percent, 186. Those are the markets and these are the main events
Boeing's CEO holds an all-hands crisis meeting as more airlines report lose parts in its 737 Max-9 jets.
Donald Trump's argument that he is immune from prosecution is met with skepticism from Appeal Court judges.
And the future of AI is on full display in Las Vegas. We'll be live at CES.
Live from London, it is Tuesday, January the 9th, I'm Isa Soares, in for Richard Quest, and of course, I too, mean business.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.
SOARES: We have some breaking news that we've been monitoring in the last what -- 10 minutes or so -- getting word of major unrest in Ecuador just
hours after a state of emergency was declared.
We've heard reports of explosions, kidnappings of police and incidents in prisons right across the country. Just a short time ago, live images showed
armed people wearing hoods taking over a TV station. Gunshots were heard and staff were told to lie down, so very worrying, indeed what's happening
right now in Ecuador.
Patrick Oppmann joins me now with the very latest.
Patrick, what are you learning? Bring us up to date with the very latest.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we're just watching this moment by moment. And you know, we were already very much aware of the
state of emergency in Ecuador, the bombings. Police being taken hostage, but this is really something quite extraordinary, the taking of a state-
owned television station in the city of Guayaquil, which is also where a notorious gang leader just in the last day or so, had apparently escaped
And that led to the president of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa to declare a state of emergency that allows the military to go into prisons and allows the
police to set up curfews and authorities take a much harder line on this out of control situation where gangs are increasingly brazenly taking on
the country's government.
And just in the last few minutes, these shocking images that are now down, but apparently the station was broadcasting live in Guayaquil, Ecuador,
when you see these armed men carrying weapons, carrying long arms, some of them threatening the TV staff, television channel staff making them sit
down on the floor at gunpoint, and then the live signal apparently was cut.
Police say that they are responding with specialized units. We don't know if this is a hostage situation, but that really is what it appears to be.
And of course, this is something new for Ecuador. But in the last several years, as Ecuador has become more important of a place, of a transshipment
place, a place where drugs move through on their way to the first world, to Europe and other places, you've seen gangs, a lot of them aligned with
Mexican drug cartels battling out control of territory, control of prisons.
And now as Ecuador's president, who has been in his job just now for a space of months has declared a period of the national 60-day period of
national emergency. The gangs have responded in a way they never really have before, including bombings, taking of police hostage, and really this
shocking brazen act, which is storming a TV station, a state-owned TV station, and apparently holding the entire staff hostage.
SOARES: Yes. It is state-owned TC Television in Guayaquil. Do we know if how many people have been taken as hostages? Do we know any more about
their fate here, Patrick?
OPPMANN: No, we really don't because of course, this is just unfolding minute by minute and apparently the live signal has been taken down. But
you know, in some of the images you see, there are dozens of people, apparently the camera crews and some of the presenters are being forced to
sit on the floor. You don't know if other people had the opportunity to escape or not, but certainly multiple, multiple employees of this state-
owned TV station --
SOARES: And we are looking at -- and Patrick as you're talking, we are looking at these pictures right now.
SOARES: I'm not sure if you can see them now, but this is incredibly scary. Armed men, as you can see there, if we can play that, breaking into
state TV there in Ecuador, threatening people, of course, with guns, if we can play that video.
Did this start, Patrick because of this gang leader that escaped from prison? What set it off?
OPPMANN: Well, you know, this gang leader is known by the name of Fito, his name is Jose Adolfo Macias Villamar, and he is one of the most
notorious gang leaders in this country. His gang is affiliated with Mexican cartels, apparently, and he was being transferred from a less secure prison
to a maximum security prison, and when that was supposed to take place, apparently he just disappeared.
And of course, how does that happen without someone on the inside helping him? The Ecuadorian officials have not said at this point how someone this
well-known, this notorious just walks out of prison, apparently, but they have ordered a manhunt for him, 3,000 police and military combing the area
of the city of Guayaquil, where this where this hostage situation and the TV station is also taking place.
So they were turning up the heat trying to find him, turning up the heat on the gangs. And apparently, this may be the response of some of these gangs,
you know, for hooded armed men to simply take over a TV station, that does not happen in Ecuador. This is a country that had been spared a lot of the
violence you've seen in South America up until the last few years where the drug cartels have moved in and this has become very lucrative real estate.
And Ecuadorians have kind of been reeling as the violence has gotten worse and worse. And of course, you saw last year the assassination of a
presidential candidate. But this is just really another level, the fact that people being described as terrorists by their own government, have now
attacked police, have sent bombs off, have kidnapped police and apparently have taken hostage, at least some of the employees of this TC Television
station in Guayaquil.
And just the images of these people going in with guns and threatening journalists or TV presenters, in the middle of the afternoon doing their
jobs is really shocking, not only for Ecuadorians, but everyone following this situation.
Of course, as a police now have rushed to this studio, does it become a standoff? What happens now? But certainly, a very volatile situation, and
unlike what the government was hoping would happen where they would gain control and rest back some of the control from the gangs of the prisons and
other places, very clearly now the situation in Ecuador is just spiraling out of control.
SOARES: Absolutely terrifying and just seeing on X from the police, Ecuador Police saying given the entry of criminals into the facilities of a
media outlet in Guayaquil, specialized units are deployed on site to attend to this emergency.
I know you'll stay across this breaking news. As soon as there is more development, of course, Patrick, do come back to us. Thank you very much.
Patrick Oppmann there.
Now, let's focus on business news, because Boeing is holding an all-hands meeting amid new questions about the safety of its 737 Max-9 jets.
United and Alaska, as you all know are airlines have both found loose hardware on some of their Max-9s. That model was temporarily grounded in
the US. The two carriers have now, more than 140 of them in their fleets. Their inspections have raised concern that a problem with a plugged may be
more widespread than the one that blew off, if you remember during an Alaska Airlines flight.
If we have a look at Boeing shares, they have been very volatile the last couple of days, as you can see there, down one-and-a-half percent, is
somewhat from what we've seen just yesterday, which is what six or seven percent, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings down or just actually is up almost one
percent, but of course, Boeing grounding has forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and that is being manifested in that stock price and
Pete Muntean is in Washington, DC.
So Pete, there are plenty of new details here, new strands here. Just talk us through what you're learning this hour.
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: A lot of major developments here, Isa, both from investigators and airlines.
Remember this investigation is focusing on what is called the door plug, that is a door on the Boeing 737 Max-9 only visible from the outside,
normal window wall and seats inside at Row 26.
Alaska Airlines has been prepping its planes to comply with checks ordered by the US Federal Aviation Administration and Alaska now says its mechanics
have found hardware that was loose. The other airline that operates these planes in the US is United Airlines and United just yesterday announced it
found loose door plug bolts on some of its Max-9s.
This is huge. These two announcements combined are a significant data point for investigators. The bolts are critical to the design of the Max-9 door
plug, four bolts, 12 stops. Without the bolts, the door can wiggle free of the stops.
The NTSB has recovered the door in question. They have now inspected it. They can tell that the door shut off and up like a rocket but investigators
say they're now looking for the bolts that would have held the door in place. This is what they said.
CLINT CROOKSHANKS, AEROSPACE ENGINEER, NTSB: The exam to date has shown that the door in fact did translate upward, all 12 stops became disengaged,
allowing it to blow out of the fuselage.
We have not yet recovered the four bolts that restrain it from its vertical movement, and we have not yet determined if they existed there. That will
be determined when we take the plug to our lab in Washington, DC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUNTEAN: Max-9s still grounded in the United States. Indonesia has also granted its Max-9s. There are 215 of them in service globally, two-thirds
here in the US, obviously a huge blackeye for Boeing.
And today, it is holding this company-wide safety meeting, hosted from the 737 Max factory in Renton, Washington. It starts in just a few hours.
SOARES: Pete Muntean, you'll stay across it for us. Appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Well, authorities found the missing part from the Alaska Airlines flight on Monday and are now taking a closer look at its assembly.
The fuselage itself is made by Spirit AeroSystems, which works with Boeing on the 737 program. Boeing itself has been regaining its footing. It
reported its best year since 2019 when the 2019 -- when it was first grounded, received a record number of monthly orders, if you remember, in
Mary Schiavo joins me now from South Carolina.
Mary, great to see you.
Look, we heard what Pete Muntean was just saying there's. It is a blackeye here for Boeing, but let's talk about the investigation because now you
have these loose bolts they will be looking at.
You know, why were they lose? Right? What questions will you be asking yourself right now?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, by the way, the NTSB has also hinted that because of these other findings that this investigation is now
Now the NTSB always very carefully couches its words, but when this first happened, the chairman of the NTSB said no, we're just looking at this
airplane. Now as of today, they said look, everything is on the table. We might have to look at the whole manufacturing process, the certification,
the design, the fabrication.
So this has become a much bigger investigation because these findings were made on other aircraft as well. And so my questions are pretty much what
the NTSB is going to be questioning. Were these bolts even there? Were they put on correctly?
When the parts arrived from Wichita from Spirit AeroSystems, did Boeing do everything it was supposed to do? From what I read, Boeing was literally to
reassemble that door onto the aircraft.
What were the bolts made of? Why are none of them attached and most importantly, they've already sent the door for metallurgical examination at
the NTSB labs. They will be able to tell from what's called witness marks or markings on the door and any residual scrapings and scratching whether
those bolts were there and were broken off or sheared away, or if there's no metal residue at all, and no witness marks, the NTSB just might conclude
they were not there, but we don't know that yet. That's questions they have to ask and answers they have to get.
SOARES: Yes, many answers we don't have, but it's clear from what you've just said, you outline there, Mary, there are several scenarios, right? Is
this an isolated event or something more systemic and engineering flaw even?
Just talk us through these scenarios, because then it raises the questions about quality control, even maintenance here.
SCHIAVO: Exactly. And you know, it is still very raw, obviously, for all the families who lost loved ones on the Max-8, but also in the United
States, because the plane was grounded for two years, we had massive hearings in Washington, DC before the United States Senate, United States
There was just shocking testimony about you know, flipping attitudes towards safety. At one point, I remember one of the lines was used was jedi
mind tricking and things like that. It was just outrageous testimony.
And so you would think and that was just you know, a scant three years ago, you would think that they would have doubled down on safety, but now, loose
bolts on brand new planes and these kinds of findings. That means that everything in this investigation will be on the table.
So once they get the metallurgical analysis, they're combing through all the records right now. They are looking at all these other planes with
loose bolts. And I would imagine they're going to go back to their records and look at whistleblower allegations and complaints that may have been
blown off. What was the quality control? What was the process on the line?
Where were the supervisors? Who signed off on this work? Because remember, everything done on an aircraft has to be signed off by an examiner, by an
inspector, so all of that is on the table and I think once they found additional planes with additional problems, this investigation just got a
SOARES: Yes, and look, for us, clearly as you just outlined there, when you say that anything is on the table, Boeing back in the spotlight, right,
Mary? The reality is that Boeing, as we outlined there is just one of a handful of plane manufacturers around the world. When we fly, the plane is
either an Airbus or a Boeing. So what impact will this have?
SCHIAVO: Well, and there is one other factor and that is when airlines and other customers of Boeing, you know, cargo, et cetera, when they order
aircraft, they don't expect delivery for, you know, two years down the pipe.
So as a result from a story like this, do they cancel their orders and then in two years not have the aircraft they need? You know, most likely not,
and history has shown that's not the case. It is the same thing with Airbus. I mean, they couldn't cancel their orders, and then expect in two
or three years to be able to pick up the aircraft that they need on the spot market. I haven't seen any of those for sale on the internet.
So the problem for people who want to be responsive to these concerns or would want to send a message by cutting back their orders, they really
And so a lot of the demand has been inelastic, you have to plan your airline out years and years in advance for your fleet needs, and so because
of that, I think Boeing is somewhat insulated from you know, the immediate response if they could go to Airbus, and Airbus has a backlog as well.
SOARES: Mary Schiavo, always wonderful to get your insight. Thanks very much. Good to see you.
SCHIAVO: Thank you.
SOARES: And when we come back, Donald Trump was in federal appeals court today for a historic hearing less than a week of course before the Iowa
Caucuses, we will explain, next.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been treated for prostate cancer, that is according to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Austin was readmitted to hospital on January the first, due to complications from a procedure in December.
The Pentagon has been facing intense questions after it was revealed that he'd been hospitalized for days without notifying the public.
Oren Liebermann joins me now for more.
And Oren, let's leave the politics for one side first of all, let's just focus on the Defense Secretary. What do we know in terms of the stage? How
he is doing?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So this is obviously a part of the story, the medical side of this. We hadn't known why he was in the
hospital or what complications he has suffered.
We just learned a tremendous amount about that, starting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's diagnosis with prostate cancer in early December.
He then went to the hospital on December 22nd for what doctors are calling a minimally invasive medical procedure, a surgery, called a prostatectomy
to treat and cure prostate cancer. He was under general anesthesia during that surgery, and he stayed in the hospital overnight. So he left on
Doctors say his prostate cancer was detected early and his prognosis is excellent, but he started to feel an intense discomfort. On January 1st,
doctors describe it as nausea, severe abdominal, hip and leg pain and for that he was admitted to the hospital in the intensive care unit at Walter
Reed National Military Medical Center.
On January 1st, he was diagnosed with urinary tract infection. He then had an infection diagnosed. His stomach was drained as part of this procedure
over the course of the next week. Doctors say now that the infection has passed, that that was cleared. He has progressed steadily throughout his
stay, and they anticipate a full recovery although they caution, doctors that is, that this can be a slow process.
At this point, he has already been in the hospital for eight days and there is no date that the Pentagon is yet willing to put nor doctors for that
matter on when he could be released from the hospital.
He did resume his responsibilities from the hospital on Friday. The Pentagon said a short time ago at a press conference that that was done in
full consultation with the doctors and the medical staff.
There was a question there about what drugs he was on and whether that would impair his judgment. So they say him coming back and taking on all of
his responsibilities is part of the process here and it was done in full consultation with doctors.
They do say there will now be a daily status update on his condition at this point. As for meetings, trips, all of essentially the day-to-day of
the Secretary's responsibility, that they say, they will take a day at a time depending on his recovery as we wait to see here how essentially this
process plays out given his very recent diagnosis caught early, but his diagnosis with prostate cancer.
SOARES: Yes. We wish him of course a speedy recovery.
Oren, appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Well, staying in the United States, a federal appeals court heard arguments today over Donald Trump's claims of presidential immunity. The former
president attended the hearing in Washington, DC, even though by the way, he wasn't legally obligated to do so.
Federal prosecutors argued that there should be consequences for trying to hold on to power after the 2020 election. Trump's lawyer says he was acting
in official capacity to ensure election integrity making him immune to the charges.
Judges appeared skeptical of the argument and a lower court has already rejected it. Here's what Trump said afterwards. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a very bad thing. It's a very bad precedent. As we said, it is the opening of a
Pandora's Box, and that's a very -- it's a very sad thing that's happened with this whole situation.
When they talk about threat to democracy, that's your real threat to democracy. And I feel that as a president, you have to have immunity, very
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: He doesn't mince his words.
Evan Perez joins me now from Washington, DC.
Evan, good to see you. Just talk us through then the arguments here from both sides. And what stood out to you in particular?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, just the fact that the former president showed up to this proceeding, which again, as you
pointed out, he didn't have to go is very unusual, as a matter of fact, for criminal defendants to even show up for an oral argument in an appeals
court proceeding, and that is what -- but that's what happened today.
And of course, you know, the fact that the former president was there meant a lot more security, a lot more closure of the court. But the former
president sat there, he was taking notes. He was very animated, having some discussions with some of his lawyers and you could see you know, that he
especially was paying close attention to some of the pushback he was getting, his lawyers were getting from those three judges in that panel.
And they were really testing this argument, this idea from John Sauer, Trump's lawyer that he has this open-ended immunity for things and so one
of the one of the judges, Judge Pan, who was an appointee of Joe Biden, she tried to stress test the limits of that immunity. Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLORENCE Y. PAN, US CIRCUIT JUDGE, US COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: If a president ordered SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political
rival, that's an official act, an order to SEAL Team Six?
D. JOHN SAUER, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He would have to be and would speedily be, you know, impeached and convicted before the
PAN: But if he weren't -- if he weren't, there would be no criminal prosecution. No criminal liability for that?
SAUER: What the founders were concerned about was not --
PAN: I asked you a yes/no -- yes or no question. Could a president who ordered SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival, who was not
impeached, would he be subject to criminal prosecution?
SAUER: If he were impeached and convicted first.
PAN: So your answer is no.
SAUER: My answer is qualified yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: And Isa, what you hear there from Donald Trump's attorney, John Sauer is a little bit of an amendment, an amendment of his arguments where
he finally concedes that there is a possibility a president could be prosecuted.
The government for its part really pushed the idea that we've never seen anything like what Donald Trump is accused of doing after the 2020
election. We're waiting now for this three-judge panel to come back with their ruling. It is possible that whoever loses this argument could appeal
to the to the US Supreme Court -- Isa.
SOARES: Evan Perez, great to see you. Thanks very much.
PEREZ: You, too.
SOARES: Well let's get more on all these threads. Elie Honig is with me for more.
And Elie, we've got a lot to get through, and I hope you can digest this for us over here on this side of the pond because we saw for 75 minutes
there, Trump looking on as his legal team try to convince the three judges that former presidents should not be prosecuted for actions they took in
office. How did the judges react to the arguments? Because they sounded like Evan was saying somewhat skeptical.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I have the same impression. I think the judges were not buying Donald Trump's legal team's arguments, and
here is why.
Donald Trump's legal team actually threw a little bit of a curveball here because in the written briefs that they submitted before these arguments,
they argued, well, Donald Trump cannot be prosecuted in this case, because what he's accused of doing leading up to January 6, his efforts to
intervene in the election, those were part of his job as president, he was just doing his duty as president. Therefore, he is immune under some
longstanding Supreme Court precedent that applies in the civil context.
Instead, today, when they got in court, they came up with this new formulation that you just heard, which is well, the only way a president or
former president can be prosecuted criminally, is if he has first been impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate and removed from office,
and that would lead to certain outrageous results, as you just heard in that hypothetical.
Well, if a president ordered SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival, but was not impeached or not convicted on impeachment, then he could
never be prosecuted for that and I cannot see two out of the three judges on this panel accepting that argument.
SOARES: So Elie, why did the argument then from the Trump side, why did it shift?
HONIG: The short answer is I don't know. Lawyers do sometimes refine their arguments when they go from the written briefs into court. Sometimes
there's a conscious decision, hey, let's change course here.
But by and large, it's not a good idea to do that. Because the judges are relying both on what you write and what you say at the oral argument. I've
done plenty of these federal appellate oral arguments, and if you're offering them two different approaches, you're really I think, undermining
both of your approaches that you offer.
So it feels to me like they may have tried to adjust on the fly when they were confronted with some of these difficult hypotheticals that they
realized they would have trouble arguing, and so they came up with this other formulation that I just don't think is going to be palatable.
SOARES: And something that stood out to me that maybe you can add some context to us here is that the judges asked, Elie, if it was too soon to
even decide this question of immunity. I mean, what did they say? And why too soon?
HONIG: So this is interesting.
So normally, a criminal defendant, like Donald Trump is now does not get to appeal until after his trial and conviction and sentencing. However, in
some very narrow circumstances, a defendant can bring what we call an interlocutory appeal, meaning an appeal before the trial.
And there was a question about well, is this type of case, is an immunity defense, something that you can bring an interlocutory appeal before trial?
Oddly, or, interestingly, Jack Smith at DOJ, the prosecutors here and Donald Trump's team agreed, yes, he can bring this appeal now.
But an outside group had written a brief where they said no, he cannot bring this brief. Now, this is not the kind of issue where you can get an
appeal at this point. But interestingly, both sides apparently want to get a ruling on this. And so both sides said, ignore that outside brief. We
want a ruling now, we think this is appropriate.
SOARES: Very briefly, but we are running out of time, Elie, how soon could the ruling come here?
HONIG: Oh, it's going to be very quickly. I would certainly expect it by the end of the month, possibly in the next two weeks.
SOARES: Elie Honig, as always, thanks very much.
HONIG: Thank you. All right.
SOARES: And when we return, we'll have much more on the breaking news that we told you at the top of the hour out of Ecuador where armed men have
stormed a TV station. We will have more on that as criminal gangs there launch a wave of terror across Ecuador.
That breaking story, next.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with breaking news out of Ecuador
this hour. We are getting word of major unrest hours after a state of emergency was declared there. We have heard reports of explosions,
kidnappings of police, and incidents in prisons right across the country. And just a short time ago, live images showed armed people wearing hoods
taking over a local state TV station. Gunshots were heard and staff were told to lie down. We're just showing you some clips there.
Our Patrick Oppmann is monitoring the situation, this breaking news. Patrick, bring us up to date with the very latest.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN HAVANA-BASED CORRESPONDENT: Well, the police and military now are on the scene of this TV station, and they say they're
working to regain control. But the pictures that they, so far, have posted -- the video they, so far, have shared showed them outside, heavily armed
police outside this TV station.
So, we don't really know what is happening inside this TV station -- Guayaquil -- TC Television, a local station in Guayaquil that this
afternoon was apparently going about their usual days of reporting when armed gunmen burst into the station as parts of Ecuador are reeling from
this increase in violence. And you saw these really shocking images of these armed gunmen mistreating, threatening the television staff, making
them sit on the floor, interrupting the live broadcast before that broadcast apparently was cut.
And this is not just happening in this one TV station but all across Ecuador as violent gangs, gangs that are deeply involved in drug
trafficking are apparently battling it out with police in military in a bid to see who really will control Ecuador. And this really was kicked off when
a -- one of the most notorious gang leaders is known as Fito, he's the head of a gang called Los Choneros which is affiliated with Mexican cartels.
Apparently, he was going to be moved into a maximum-security prison. And gang members in Ecuador up until now really, when they are in prison, are
not -- are still leading those gangs. They still many times have control over the gangs. They have cell phones. They live luxurious lifestyle
despite the fact that they are in prison and they direct their gang's operations.
So, apparently, this notorious gang leader who was serving a 34-year sentence, did not want to be transferred to this tougher prison. He's
disappeared from prison in Guayaquil. You've seen this wave of violence against police, against civilians at universities. Really reminiscent the -
- some of the violence that Mexican cartels and in the 1980s, Colombian cartels brought against their populations to try to pressure local
And now, today, just minutes ago, you saw the president of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa saying -- labeling these groups as terrorist organizations and that
the military had to bring them to heel. So, certainly just minute by minute developments in Ecuador. And of course, for the journalists, you know, our
colleagues essentially who are now in the midst of a hostage situation. We are waiting to see what has happened to them. If this is going to be a
standoff between the very well-armed militants and get gang members inside this TV station and the police outside, or if there will be a peaceful
resolution to all of this.
SOARES: As you're talking, I'm being told we have some images of some activity, it seems, outside a police station. I wonder if you can bring
that up for our viewers, if you've got it there. I'm not sure whether you can see it, but you see a police van there, military activity. We had heard
from the police in the last what, 30 minutes or so, in relation to the TV station, that they were making their way there. They're trying to take
control of the situation.
I can't tell from any of the signs there where exactly they are. It is in Guayaquil. But we do know, Patrick, that emergency measures have been put
in place. Just -- so, talk us through what they involve. What would -- I'm guessing it may involve a curfew here.
OPPMANN: There's a curfew that was already been announced on Monday when this notorious gang leader, you know, we're talking about the Al Capone or
Pablo Escobar of Ecuador, or you know, El Chapo, a man known as Fito, Jose Macias Villamar, who had already escaped previously from prison, and he
just vanished. And of course, that points to an inside job because, you know, how is it the most notorious gang leader -- alleged gang leader in
Ecuador and just walks out of prison. That doesn't happen without quite a bit of help.
And so, you saw Ecuador's President, Daniel Noboa, say that they will not be giving in to pressure. That they had set up roadblocks and were bringing
the military and police into prisons. And then they were going to, sort of, comb a street by street in Guayaquil and elsewhere to find this gang leader
and return him to prison, send him to a higher security prison.
And now you've seen the gangs respond, apparently, by taking this TV station, but also attacking universities. We've seen video of daylight of -
- you know, violence being carried out in universities in Guayaquil and throughout the country, you know. Video of police officers being taken
hostage by gang members of police vehicles of being firebombed.
And so, this is just really a brazen, you know, terrorist like activities. You know, this is -- you've seen the gangs in Ecuador gain power over the
last several years. You know, horrific prison massacres, the assassination of a presidential candidate last year, and seemingly gangs that simply are
not afraid of authorities, and in fact seem to be willing to go toe to toe with them.
And even -- you know, this is a peaceful country up until recently, Ecuador. It did not -- it had not seen the violence in Colombia and other
countries had seen throughout the drug wars. But now as Ecuador has become a key point of -- for drugs, you know, principally cocaine to go to the
Europe and the U.S. from their ports. You're seeing gangs battle out amongst themselves and with the government, and they're not backing down in
this fight for control over this drug turf.
SOARES: And I'm seeing on X from the Presidencia Ecuador, from the president's page declaring here -- I'm just getting a translation on --
from Daniel Noboa to the nation.
President Daniel Noboa Azin signed the executive decree declaring internal armed conflict and identified -- and then went to list, transnational
organized crime groups. As he said, terrorist organization and belligerent non-state actors. He then went on to name some of these organizations. He
goes on to say he has ordered the armed forces to carry out military operations to neutralize these groups. A statement here from the President
Daniel Noboa Azin.
Let me bring in -- stay with us Patrick. I'm going to bring in Christopher Sabatini, a well-known face on the show. He's a senior fellow for Latin
America at Chatham House.
Christopher, great to see you. Just to add some context here. I mean, we heard Patrick talking about the challenges, of course, that Noboa faced. He
-- you know, he was elected -- what, in October with the aim of trying to keep a lid, right, on this surge in violence? How is he going to contain
CHRISTOPHER SABATINI, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW FOR LATIN AMERICA, CHATHAM HOUSE: It's going to be difficult. I mean, there's several issues here.
First of all, clearly, you know, his state of siege that he announced yesterday has really been a state of declare -- declaration of war to the
Narco terrorists. And they're clearly throwing down the gauntlet and demonstrating. They want to send a message to him that they're not to be
So, it's going to be a very difficult time for him. At the same time, Ecuador is, as Patrick mentioned earlier, has really largely been a
peaceful country. It doesn't have the experience of battling insurgencies and narcotics traffickers, say Columbia or Peru. So, they really are under
equipped, underfunded, and quite frankly, the population is not accustomed to this level of terror or violence. So, he's going to have a very
difficult time. But this is clearly an effort to demonstrate to Noboa that the narcotics traffickers are going to assert their own authority and they
want to show who's boss.
SOARES: And so, who is the boss? I mean, who -- they -- you said they're underfunded. Who is funding them here?
SABATINI: Well, the armed forces are underfunded and the police forces are underfunded.
SABATINI: The -- and especially, in comparison to the drug traffickers. You have a number of rival gangs. You have Los Lobos, Los Zorros. Those are
all gangs that receive a huge amount of funding and support through cocaine trafficking and other forms of illicit activities. Including illegal
timber, human trafficking and the like. So, they're well-funded but it's the -- the Ecuadorian state that has -- and has been severely under
capacitated, if you will, in this area for battling these sorts of threats.
SOARES: And of course, what can you tell us about this powerful gang leader, Christopher? The Fito, who escaped high security prison here.
SABATINI: Adolfo Macias is one of the major gang leaders. He has -- was put in prison. He was serving a long, I think it was, 20 years sentence. It
was really, sort of, an effort based on other efforts in other countries in Latin-America to decapitate, if you will, these drug gangs.
But, of course, these drug gangs continue to operate, as we've seen, especially since 2021 in which more than 7,000 have been killed -- I'm
sorry, more than 4,000 prisoners have been killed through, sort of, internecine gang warfare in these prisons.
It was -- this was an effort for him to, you know, escape. Clearly, there was an -- it was an inside job. You don't escape a maximum-security prison
without some sort of support on the inside. And of course, there are other rival gangs. There's another jail leader who escaped a few days ago.
So, you know, they're really -- now they're out. And this was also a protest against Noboa's promise to establish more maximum-security prisons,
including off the coast of Ecuador to remove this threat. But they -- as I say, I strongly suspect this was an inside job in many ways inside the
prison. And you know, he's going to be back in business. He can -- you know, there are large areas of Ecuador that are ungoverned. The jungle
areas, the mountainous areas. It will be very easy for him to, if you will, fade into the countryside and, you know, recollect his forces and regather
and reconnect to his business such as it is.
SOARES: Yes, stay with us, Christopher. I want to bring back Patrick Oppmann.
And Patrick getting updates, of course, of viewers just joining us. We showed viewers very briefly some of the photos if we have them to show them
again of these hooded and armed men, interrupting the live state TV station in Ecuador. We also know the specialized units of police responded it to
the emergency there. Very worrying situation indeed.
But police forces, we're being told now Patrick, have intervened.
SABATINI: OK. Thank you.
SOARES: What more can you tell us?
OPPMANN: Well, you know, just -- again to recap, you know, what an extraordinary scene this is. And even for those who, you know, the last 24
hours have been following what would seem like an increased -- what was an increase in violence in Ecuador as you had this escape of a gang leader and
the violence associated with that.
But to have mass gunmen come into a TV station, visibly abuse the staff of that TV station, sort of, kicking them, pushing them, making them sit on
the floor, holding them at gunpoint.
You know, one man holding a -- sort of, a long gun. Some viewers reported hearing what sounded like shots, we can't confirm that. But certainly, from
the video, it certainly seemed like these gunmen were, you know, actively harassing and threatening the staff of this TV station.
And where does this go from now from here? Because we've seen the police -- heavily armed police, but apparently outside the TV station. And we don't
know for the last half an hour or so what has been going on inside the TV station. If these gang members, these masked gunmen have kind of made their
point and fled, or are they going to turn this into an ongoing hostage situation where they'll have demands and, you know, cause authorities to
have to negotiate with them over a long period of time. We don't know what their game plan is.
Even if there is a game plan, because we've seen, you know, it's not the only activity that's going on right now. We've seen attacks across Ecuador
in Guayaquil, really horrific video, apparently at universities of brazen daylight attack -- daytime attacks being carried out.
And so, apparently the order has gone out within these very violent gangs just to make -- to bring hell to the streets of Ecuador and many of the
cities in Ecuador, and really terrorize the population. That is their response to the government saying that they're going to war with the gangs.
That the gangs saying that they are willing to go to war with the government.
And we'll just have to see how this all unfolds. But of course, this is the symptom of a much greater problem, which is these gangs have become
superpowered over the last several years. And as you were just discussing, the Ecuadorian military and police are simply not equipped and not
experienced in handling this, and now they find themselves in a fight to the death.
SOARES: Yes. And just as you were talking, we've heard from the University of Guayaquil who sent out a statement, saying that all activities have been
suspended. Given the moments, they said of social unrest that are being experienced in the country, we informed the university community, that all
academic and administrative activities in the areas all around the University of Guayaquil are suspended.
Local media outlets are also reporting that armed individuals, not just that the TC state television facilities, but also the Maldonado Hospital,
also being impacted. We are going to take a short break. Patrick, Christopher, stay with me. We'll re-brief -- we'll talk -- bring you up to
date on the very latest in just a few minutes.
SOARES: If you are just joining us, we are following breaking news out of Ecuador. We've been getting word of major unrest hours after a state of
emergency was declared there. We have heard reports of explosions, of kidnappings, of police and incidents in prisons right across the country.
And just a short time ago, live images showed armed people wearing hoods, taking over state TV stations, as you can see there, with those guns on
their hands on the left side. Gunshots were heard. And staff were told to lie down.
Christoph Sabatini is a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House. Patrick Oppmann is also still with me.
On the TV station, Patrick, police have now entered, is that right? Entered the premises. But we do not know what is happening behind closed doors.
OPPMANN: No, we don't. We need to make that very, very clear. You know, this is a minute-by-minute situation. And of course, before the live signal
was cut off, you saw these just stunning images, something Ecuadorians have never seen before. I think few people have ever seen before, unless you
live in a country that were -- you know, criminality just runs, you know, amok. And that is these masked gunmen coming in and threatening journalists
at gunpoint, you know, as the cameras rolled.
And now we've seen police and military, apparently, surrounding the TV station. Appears that they have rescued some of the staff and some of the
people who were there at this TV television station in Guayaquil. And you would assume that they would be trying to go in and, sort of, clear the
station room to room. And we don't know what kind of opposition they will face at this point.
You know, very difficult and dangerous situation because you could see in the video, you know, there are different types of scenarios. And, you know,
the people came in, the armed gunmen, these people did not seem particularly disciplined. They were threatening people. They were pointing
guns at them. They were mistreating journalists and some of the staff at that station. So, that makes it even more dangerous when, when you have
people who are apparently -- you know, just kind of freewheeling somewhat here.
And we should point out, this is not the only place where there is a violent situation unfolding. At universities and hospitals, in prisons,
there are apparently has been something of a criminal uprising against Ecuador's government as the government there is trying to crack down on the
-- this criminality that has been allowed to fester over the last several years. These, you know, cartel linked gangs that have essentially taken
over Ecuador's prisons and beyond, and are now threatening stability in that country.
SOARES: Yes, I'm looking down because I'm seeing that police -- Ecuador police has just put out a statement. I'm going to read it -- there are
photos, which we'll get to you. As a result -- this is a Policia Ecuador saying, as a result of the intervention at the television station, TC
Television, our police units have so far managed to arrest several subjects and evidence linked to the crime.
And you're seeing several of those subjects, those hooded people that we saw in that little clip arrested, on the floor with their hands tied. Of
course, we'll try to get those images to you. But this coming in to CNN from the Policia Ecuador.
And Christopher Sabatini who is with me. I mean, this comes in the last, what, 10 minutes or so. President of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, has signed a
decree for the armed forces to neutralize the violence, talking of an internal armed conflict. Just talk here, Christopher, to the challenge for
this president, of course, who -- you know, who's been in power, what, since October?
SABATINI: Yes. So, what's interesting here, I was thinking about this historically is -- you know, traditionally, in the usual military coups
that have marked or even marred Latin-American history military officers often seized a media. It was a way to instill fear, to assert control, and
this is obviously much more regular, as Patrick was saying, these are -- you know, these are freewheeling elements, probably, within a larger gang
network, but it clearly is intended to send a signal that they are in control.
Now, we don't know how this will end up, as you're saying. It looks like it may be -- some may be under arrest. But again, it's difficult to
overestimate what the impact this will have on Ecuador and citizens seeing these multiple scenes of violence against citizens, and again -- and
students. Universities were also, sort of, a focus point, but also in terms of, you know, now calling in the military. It's a demonstration that when
Noboa doesn't have the faith in the national police forced to do the job.
SABATINI: And again, we see the military coming to the rescue.
SOARES: But also, we've got -- he named in this statement -- Noboa named designated 22 criminal organizations, Christopher, as terror groups. I
mean, this is -- the scale of this is huge.
SABATINI: It is huge. And again, this is sort of to call out these organizations. And let's go back, it wasn't too long ago. It was less than
a year ago when a presidential candidate, Villavicencio, was actually assassinated by one of these groups, Los Lobos, for calling out a number of
the leaders. So, this is really -- I mean, this is a declaration of war on the part of Daniel Noboa, understandable, certainly. But you know -- and
what's also important is a lot of these groups have international connections.
They have international connections with Colombians. They have international connections with Albanian, the Albanian organized crime
units. This is really going to have implications beyond Ecuador. And it will also involve, obviously, the United States and us, obviously,
cooperation with European police authorities and security authorities.
SOARES: Christopher, really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us and laying it all down, adding context. Patrick, I know you'll stay across
this breaking news and developing story as we get more material coming in, more updates from our teams, and from the Ecuador government and police.
Thank you to you both.
We are taking a short break. We'll continue an eye on that breaking news. We'll be back after this.
SOARES: Well, we are following and have been following this hour, breaking news out of Ecuador. Let me bring you up to date with what we know this
hour. Just a short time ago, live images showed armed people wearing hoods, taking over a TV station. Gunshots were heard and staff were told to lie
That is hours after a state of emergency was declared there when a top gang leader, his name is well known as Fito, was vanished basically from prison.
There are reports of explosions, kidnappings of police, and incidents in prison across the city as well. Concerns of university, as well as a
An army of police officers are on the streets. As you can see, they're trying to get hold of the situation in the last few minutes.