Fito, who is the escaped drug trafficker who holds Ecuador in check. The leader of ‘Los Choneros’ is the most dangerous wanted man in the country


By John

Bearded, pursed lips, fixed gaze and the word “wanted” superimposed: the face of Adolfo Macias, alias Fito, is today the best known in Ecuador. The police forces are hunting the most dangerous man in the country who, after having escaped from prison where he commanded the nation’s main criminal gang, has plunged Ecuador into chaos and violence.

Of the leader of ‘Los Choneros’ little else is known beyond his humble past as a taxi driver and the high potential for delinquency which led to him being classified by the government as a “criminal with extremely dangerous characteristics”. Behind him he left a cell adorned with images that enhance his figure, weapons, dollars and lions.

The police, who activated a plan to capture him, found themselves at war within a few hours with the exponents of a narco-criminal gang that emerged in the 1990s in the coastal province of Manabì (south-west), strategic for trafficking of drugs to the United States and Europe. The government believes that he may have escaped “hours before” the police intervention in the regional prison of Guayaquil, where he reigns supreme and where it is no coincidence that the violence of the last few hours has concentrated, including theattack on a TV with 13 employees taken hostage.

Fito’s detention was rather sui generis, comparable to that of Pablo Escobar in Colombia in the 90s: videos are circulating showing celebrations inside the prison with musicians and fireworks displays, but also a ‘narcocorrido’ in his honor in a patio, performed by a mariachi and his daughter, who introduces herself as the Queen Michelle. In the recording she appears waving, laughing and petting a fighting cock.

Fito exercised “significant internal control of the penitentiary center,” the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said in a 2022 report.
Fito’s rise to the top of the band, made up of around 8,000 people, was made possible by the deaths, in rapid succession, of his predecessors. He assumed command of the organization in 2020, after the killing of his associates Jorge Luis Zambrano and Junior Roldan.

Phyto he even graduated from law school in prisonwhere he was serving a 34-year sentence for weapons possession, drug trafficking, organized crime and murder.
His rise to leadership of the gang was accompanied by the fragmentation of the group, which until Zambrano’s death had brought together most of the smaller organizations.
According to Insight Crime, the latest changes in Los Choneros’ leadership “have triggered infighting within the group and its subgroups.” Gangs like the Tiguerones and Chone Killers broke away and came into conflict with each other.

The study center underlines that the Choneros “have progressively lost power in favor of an alliance led by Los Lobos”, whose leader also escaped from a prison in Riobamba.
The choneros, once dedicated to traditional crime with acts of piracy on the high seas, then created links with Colombian and then Mexican drug traffickers. According to the Ecuadorian Observatory on Organized Crime, they currently have links to the Sinaloa cartels, the Gulf Clan (the largest cocaine exporter in the world) and Balkan organizations.

On social networks, Los Choneros present themselves as Robin Hood-style benefactors and produce videos that glorify drug trafficking, threaten journalists and issue warnings to other gangs.
For his part Fito is accused of instigating the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, shot dead in August by a Colombian gunman. Fito was not convicted of that crime, but the government of then President Guillermo Lasso (2021-2023) ordered his transfer to a maximum security prison, in a spectacular law enforcement operation that sparked protests from prisoners. But after a while, thanks to a series of legal technicalities, Fito returned to his fiefdom, the regional prison of Guayaquil. Now the photograph of him with the words “wanted” is circulating again throughout Ecuador, along with a long trail of blood.