Ecuador’s State of Emergency

Happy Tuesday! The Entertainer is back! To all the Billy Joel fans out there Keeping the Faith, the Piano Man announced the upcoming release of his first pop single in The Longest Time— almost 17 years—titled, “Turn the Lights Back On.” The song will be available in Italian Restaurants everywhere on February 1.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The U.S. and Britain launched another round of strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Monday, the eighth such campaign in two weeks, in response to the Iranian-backed terrorist group’s continued attacks against international ships in the Red Sea. “The Houthis’ now more than thirty attacks on international and commercial vessels since mid-November constitute an international challenge,” the U.S. and U.K. said in a joint statement released on Monday. “Recognizing the broad consensus of the international community, we again acted as part of a coalition of like-minded countries committed to upholding the rules-based order, protecting freedom of navigation and international commerce, and holding the Houthis accountable for their illegal and unjustifiable attacks on mariners and commercial shipping.” The eight targets included an underground storage site as well as weapons and surveillance capabilities, the Pentagon reported. 
  • The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced this morning that a total of 24 of its soldiers were killed in Gaza on Monday, marking the single deadliest day for Israeli troops since the ground operation began in October and bringing the IDF’s total death toll to more than 200. Israeli officials reported that 21 reservists were killed in a high-casualty incident in central Gaza yesterday afternoon, when Hamas fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades at an Israeli tank and two nearby buildings collapsed following a large explosion. In addition, three officers were killed as Israeli forces advanced into Khan Younis—a city in the southern half of the enclave and the site of intensifying urban battles.
  • In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the Biden administration’s request to vacate an injunction in the ongoing fight over Texas’ use of razor wire fencing at the southern border, allowing federal agents to remove the barriers. The state of Texas sued the federal government last October after border patrol agents attempted to remove some of the fencing, arguing the Department of Homeland Security was interfering with the state’s ability to enforce its own borders. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elana Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson in the majority ruling, vacating a previous injunction set by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina endorsed former President Donald Trump in the Republican presidential race on Monday, just one day before the New Hampshire primary election. “I don’t see eye to eye perfectly with any candidate. And until now I’ve stayed out of it,” Mace said in a statement yesterday. “But the time has come to unite behind our nominee.” Trump endorsed Mace’s primary challenger in 2022, calling the congresswoman “an absolutely terrible candidate” after her calls for accountability following January 6. Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina governor, campaigned for Mace in 2022 and helped defeat her Trump-backed challenger. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good, a Virginia Republican who was backing Gov. Ron DeSantis, also formally endorsed Trump on Sunday. 

Ecuador Erupts

Police keep watch over arrested men who attempted to take over a hospital in Guayas, Ecuador, on January 21, 2024. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)
Police keep watch over arrested men who attempted to take over a hospital in Guayas, Ecuador, on January 21, 2024. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

On January 9, a live news broadcast from the port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, was suddenly interrupted when more than a dozen masked men stormed the TV studio, brandishing guns and explosives. The attackers swung their weapons wildly as they made presenters and crew lie on the floor. Reporter Jose Luis Calderon pleaded with the attackers as the cameras continued to roll, beaming the frightening scene across thousands of television screens in the South American country. 

Authorities ultimately arrested the 13 men, set to be charged with terrorism. Last week, though, the prosecutor investigating the attack was shot and killed in Guayaquil. “Everything has collapsed,” Alina Manrique, the station’s head of news, said afterwards. “All I know is that it’s time to leave this country and go very far away.”

The shocking incident is just one episode in the recent escalation of violence in Ecuador. Once a tourist-friendly pocket of peace in the world’s deadliest region, the country has slowly devolved into one of the most dangerous places in South America. The deteriorating security situation has prompted the promise of a harsh crackdown from newly elected President Daniel Noboa, who declared war on the drug cartels that exercise enormous control over the country’s prison system and battle each other for access to drug trafficking routes. Noboa’s plan—backed by the U.S.—is dramatic, but analysts and observers have warned it may not be enough to ensure peace in the long term.

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