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Argentina seizes, expels family of fugitive drug lord 'Fito'

January 20, 2024

Argentina's authorities believe that Fito's plan was to buy a house there, move the family and then escape from Ecuador’s prison. This comes amid a manhunt for the drug lord, who broke out of jail on January 7.

Argentine authorities transport detained relatives of ecuadorian criminal 'Fito' Macias, in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said the country had expelled eight people in totalImage: ARGENTINE SECURITY MINISTRY/REUTERS

Argentina's authorities on Friday detained and deported the wife and children of Ecuadorean fugitive drug trafficker Jose Adolfo Macias.

Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said the country had expelled eight people, including other associates of Macias, more commonly known as 'Fito', who had moved into a home in Cordoba after arriving in Argentina on January 5. 

Two days later, on January 7, Fito disappeared from a prison in Ecuador where he was serving a 34-year sentence for several crimes including drug trafficking, extortion and murder. He's still on the loose amid a major search operation in Ecuador and beyond.

Police forces stand guard outside the Turi prison as inmates hold prison guards hostage, in Cuenca, Ecuador, on January 8, 2024. The leader of Ecuador's main criminal gang Adolfo Macías, alias "Fito", is thought to have escaped from the prison on January 7.
Ecuadorean authorities issued a state of emergency after the jailbreak earlier this month, which was followed by major unrest in several prisonsImage: FERNANDO MACHADO/AFP/Getty Images

"Our hypothesis is that Fito's plan was to buy the house, move the family out and then escape from prison," Bullrich said. She said they were operating on a tip from Ecuadorean counterparts.

The family's temporary residence permit was canceled through a "migration resolution" which then allowed authorities to "detain and expel them from the country," Cordoba official Juan Pablo Quinteros said.

"Argentina is not going to be a narco-country nor are our provinces going to be a den of criminals. We are determined to combat this type of crime," Argentina's Interior Minister Guillermo Francos said at the press conference. 

Ecuador declares state of emergency amid gang violence surge

The search for Fito

Ecuadorean President Daniel Noboa told Colombia's W Radio that the police were searching for Fito "everywhere." He has asked Columbian President Gustavo Petro to conduct an "intensive search" there as well.

Noboa declared a two-month state of emergency after Fito absconded, deploying military to the country's streets in an effort to control the intensifying gang violence. In January alone, there was an on-air attack by armed men on a TV station, the taking of over 170 prison officials as hostage and incidents of police officers being kidnapped.

Ecuadorian soldiers arrive at the Zonal 8 prison for an inspection in Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 7, 2024.
Ecuador was once seen as a relative bastion of stability in the region but cartels' and gangs' growing influence and recent violent crimes have the government scrambling to respondImage: VICENTE GAIBOR DEL PINO/REUTERS

 "We have a war to fight, and a very battered nation to recover," Noboa said on Friday. 

In an interview to RCN Radio, Naoba said, "We know that (Macias') entire family was in Argentina ... they have been deported to Ecuador."

"Often these relatives are involved in money laundering or in the economic and operational part of the cartels and narco-terrorist groups," the president said.

While local media in Ecuador reported that Fito's family arrived at the Guayaquil airport, the country's government and police did not immediately comment on the matter. 

Two arrested in killing of Ecuadoran prosecutor

mk/msh (AFP, Reuters)