Ecuadorians set to approve tougher security measures in referendum

Voters in Ecuador are expected to approve tougher security measures in a referendum on constitutional reform and other issues held on Sunday.

Local media report that people in the South American nation will likely approve nine of the 11 items by a majority vote. These include expanding the role of the military in cracking down on criminal organizations and tougher penalties for terrorism, murder and human trafficking.

President Daniel Noboa welcomed the preliminary results.

He said in a social media post that his country will have more tools to fight crime and restore peace to Ecuadorian families.

The security situation in Ecuador has worsened in recent months. In January, an armed group stormed a TV station and broke into a studio during a live broadcast in the western city of Guayaquil. Criminal gangs have also taken police officers and prison staff as hostages.

Observers point out other challenges. Drug cartels in Mexico and elsewhere are reportedly providing financial backing to help gangs buy weapons and bribe police and military personnel.