Daniel Noboa, Ecuador's new president, has scrapped a 2013 rule that allowed the possession of small amounts of drugs, saying he wanted to counter "micro-trafficking" (illegal sale of small quantities).

The young head of state, who was elected in mid-October and took office on Thursday at the age of 35, ordered the interior ministry to end the practice, according to a press release.

Decriminalisation was introduced by former Socialist President Rafael Correa (who ruled from 2007 to 2017) to help police focus on drug traffickers, not just consumers.

Noboa, who describes himself as a center-left but backed by right-wing forces, is the heir to a business empire for growing and selling bananas. He promised the cancellation during his election campaign, arguing that the decriminalization of possession "encourages microtrafficking in schools and gives birth to a whole generation of dependent children."

Located between Colombia and Peru, two main cocaine exporters, Ecuador has remained peaceful for a long time, but recent years have seen an explosion of gang violence linked to Colombian and Mexican cartels. From 2018 to 2022, the number of homicides in the country quadrupled, reaching a record level of 26 per 100,000 inhabitants, with a tendency to rise.

Noboa, the youngest president in the country's history, has vowed in response to introduce a state of emergency, abolish some basic rights such as freedom of movement and deploy the army on the streets.

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