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Lally Weymouth: You gave up your career in business to help elect President Noboa?

Gabriela Sommerfeld: I met him about a year ago and saw a smart and brave young leader who was willing to make profound changes to our country. He has been making hard decisions to get back control of the country and give back security and liberty to Ecuadorians.

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Do you think he will succeed?

I’m sure he can. He has decided to make no compromises with anyone. He is working for 18 million Ecuadorians. He also comes from the private sector, so he doesn’t need to make a business out of the presidency. He needs to work to make a better country. Even though he is very young, he is well-prepared. He has degrees from four different U.S. universities. He has been a congressman in our country, and his father has been a politician all his life.

Didn’t the current crisis begin when the notorious gang leader “Fito” (José Adolfo Macías Villamar), the leader of one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs, Los Choneros, escaped from jail on Jan. 7?

Yes. The first decree that our president issued on Jan. 8 called for a nationwide state of emergency for 60 days. After this measure, there were a lot of riots and kidnappings and threats.

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How did such a major criminal escape from one of your prisons?

We have no certainty about that because at the time the Ecuadorian government didn’t have control over the jails. They used to be control centers for terrorism and organized crime.

On Jan. 9, President Noboa issued a decree declaring that we have an internal armed conflict in Ecuador against 22 drug gangs, which he designated to be terrorist groups. This means that the military and police are authorized to go after the drug gangs.

Didn’t law and order begin to deteriorate even before Fito’s escape?

Yes, law and order originally started to deteriorate in December when Attorney General Diana Salazar organized a series of raids across the country targeting drug trafficking organizations and revealing their ties to judges, prosecutors, police officers and guards in prisons.

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The day before the attorney general launched the raids against corrupt officials, leftist former president Rafael Correa, found guilty of corruption and living in exile in Belgium, tweeted a warning of an imminent operation in Ecuador.

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We can tell that he had information before Ecuadorians knew. He knew what was going to happen.

How have the people of Ecuador responded to President Noboa’s actions?

Once our president issued these decrees and started this war to take back control over our country, 95 percent of Ecuadorians support the president. We haven’t seen that kind of support in decades.

What are you asking for from the United States? Are you asking for special things like intelligence sharing?

Many things. Intelligence cooperation, equipment, training for new capabilities.

Other countries have helped too. For example, Peru and Colombia sent their militaries to their shared borders with us. We coordinated that, so people we don’t want aren’t coming into the country, and people that escaped from jails can’t go outside our borders.

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We also received help from Israel and from European countries.

What is Israel doing for you?

Sending intelligence and equipment.

How will you stop cocaine and other drugs from coming into your country?

Drugs come mainly across land borders. Ecuador doesn’t produce drugs. Ecuador is a country of transit for drugs. This is not an Ecuadorian problem.

What is the state of play in Ecuador right now?

We had chaos. Right now, we are taking control over that chaos and bringing stability.

The guards in the prisons have been released. We have control over the jail system.

Before, a lot of businesses were closing because they were being asked by gangs to pay to stay open. Now, we need to reactivate the economy.

That is going to be difficult. The attorney general found so many officials being paid off by the gangs. It appears to be a mess.

We had a mess. We are controlling that.

You’re going to control it. But you can’t control it in one day.

We control the jails — that’s a lot of the issue. You can see Ecuadorians tweeting, “Finally I can go out and I can play football.” It won’t happen in one day or one month. It will depend on the strength of our actions.

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Until a year ago, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld was a leading business executive in her country’s tourism industry. She was a close supporter of Ecuador’s young president, Daniel Noboa, now 36, during his presidential campaign last year and remains so today. Earlier this month, Noboa imposed a state of emergency in his country because of a breakdown of law and order. Sommerfeld took time out to speak with The Post’s Lally Weymouth at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about the crisis. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Excerpts:

Lally Weymouth: You gave up your career in business to help elect President Noboa?

Gabriela Sommerfeld: I met him about a year ago and saw a smart and brave young leader who was willing to make profound changes to our country. He has been making hard decisions to get back control of the country and give back security and liberty to Ecuadorians.

Do you think he will succeed?

I’m sure he can. He has decided to make no compromises with anyone. He is working for 18 million Ecuadorians. He also comes from the private sector, so he doesn’t need to make a business out of the presidency. He needs to work to make a better country. Even though he is very young, he is well-prepared. He has degrees from four different U.S. universities. He has been a congressman in our country, and his father has been a politician all his life.

Didn’t the current crisis begin when the notorious gang leader “Fito” (José Adolfo Macías Villamar), the leader of one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs, Los Choneros, escaped from jail on Jan. 7?

Yes. The first decree that our president issued on Jan. 8 called for a nationwide state of emergency for 60 days. After this measure, there were a lot of riots and kidnappings and threats.

How did such a major criminal escape from one of your prisons?

We have no certainty about that because at the time the Ecuadorian government didn’t have control over the jails. They used to be control centers for terrorism and organized crime.

On Jan. 9, President Noboa issued a decree declaring that we have an internal armed conflict in Ecuador against 22 drug gangs, which he designated to be terrorist groups. This means that the military and police are authorized to go after the drug gangs.

Didn’t law and order begin to deteriorate even before Fito’s escape?

Yes, law and order originally started to deteriorate in December when Attorney General Diana Salazar organized a series of raids across the country targeting drug trafficking organizations and revealing their ties to judges, prosecutors, police officers and guards in prisons.

The day before the attorney general launched the raids against corrupt officials, leftist former president Rafael Correa, found guilty of corruption and living in exile in Belgium, tweeted a warning of an imminent operation in Ecuador.

We can tell that he had information before Ecuadorians knew. He knew what was going to happen.

How have the people of Ecuador responded to President Noboa’s actions?

Once our president issued these decrees and started this war to take back control over our country, 95 percent of Ecuadorians support the president. We haven’t seen that kind of support in decades.

What are you asking for from the United States? Are you asking for special things like intelligence sharing?

Many things. Intelligence cooperation, equipment, training for new capabilities.

Other countries have helped too. For example, Peru and Colombia sent their militaries to their shared borders with us. We coordinated that, so people we don’t want aren’t coming into the country, and people that escaped from jails can’t go outside our borders.

We also received help from Israel and from European countries.

What is Israel doing for you?

Sending intelligence and equipment.

How will you stop cocaine and other drugs from coming into your country?

Drugs come mainly across land borders. Ecuador doesn’t produce drugs. Ecuador is a country of transit for drugs. This is not an Ecuadorian problem.

What is the state of play in Ecuador right now?

We had chaos. Right now, we are taking control over that chaos and bringing stability.

The guards in the prisons have been released. We have control over the jail system.

Before, a lot of businesses were closing because they were being asked by gangs to pay to stay open. Now, we need to reactivate the economy.

That is going to be difficult. The attorney general found so many officials being paid off by the gangs. It appears to be a mess.

We had a mess. We are controlling that.

You’re going to control it. But you can’t control it in one day.

We control the jails — that’s a lot of the issue. You can see Ecuadorians tweeting, “Finally I can go out and I can play football.” It won’t happen in one day or one month. It will depend on the strength of our actions.

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Lally Weymouth: You gave up your career in business to help elect President Noboa?

Gabriela Sommerfeld: I met him about a year ago and saw a smart and brave young leader who was willing to make profound changes to our country. He has been making hard decisions to get back control of the country and give back security and liberty to Ecuadorians.

Advertisement

Do you think he will succeed?

I’m sure he can. He has decided to make no compromises with anyone. He is working for 18 million Ecuadorians. He also comes from the private sector, so he doesn’t need to make a business out of the presidency. He needs to work to make a better country. Even though he is very young, he is well-prepared. He has degrees from four different U.S. universities. He has been a congressman in our country, and his father has been a politician all his life.

Didn’t the current crisis begin when the notorious gang leader “Fito” (José Adolfo Macías Villamar), the leader of one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs, Los Choneros, escaped from jail on Jan. 7?

Yes. The first decree that our president issued on Jan. 8 called for a nationwide state of emergency for 60 days. After this measure, there were a lot of riots and kidnappings and threats.

Advertisement

How did such a major criminal escape from one of your prisons?

We have no certainty about that because at the time the Ecuadorian government didn’t have control over the jails. They used to be control centers for terrorism and organized crime.

On Jan. 9, President Noboa issued a decree declaring that we have an internal armed conflict in Ecuador against 22 drug gangs, which he designated to be terrorist groups. This means that the military and police are authorized to go after the drug gangs.

Didn’t law and order begin to deteriorate even before Fito’s escape?

Yes, law and order originally started to deteriorate in December when Attorney General Diana Salazar organized a series of raids across the country targeting drug trafficking organizations and revealing their ties to judges, prosecutors, police officers and guards in prisons.

Advertisement

The day before the attorney general launched the raids against corrupt officials, leftist former president Rafael Correa, found guilty of corruption and living in exile in Belgium, tweeted a warning of an imminent operation in........

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