By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuador’s top court has blocked nine questions that President Daniel Noboa wanted to put to Ecuadoreans in a referendum on security issues, arguing they failed to meet constitutional requirements, it said on Friday.

Noboa declared a state of emergency with a nighttime curfew for 60 days at the beginning of January over spiraling violence in the Andean country, and designated 22 criminal bands as terrorist groups, declaring a military offensive against them at the same time.

Six other questions for the referendum were approved, while four more, including on the extradition of Ecuadoreans and the recognition of international arbitration, will be reexamined, the Constitutional Court said.

Noboa had said that he hopes to hold the referendum in March.

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court said it blocked the nine questions because they do not change current regulations, are imprecise, or address multiple topics.

Among questions the court denied were those on allowing security forces to carry out operations preempting organized crime, as well as on changes to sanctions and pardons regarding the use of force.

Noboa’s press office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ecuador has been engulfed in spiraling violence, including in prisons where hundreds of inmates have been killed in recent years, which officials attribute to gangs of drug traffickers.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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