HomeNewsAnalysisEcuador Port Sees Piracy Boom
ANALYSIS

Ecuador Port Sees Piracy Boom

ECUADOR / 21 JUN 2011 BY PATRICK CORCORAN EN

Ecuador's port city Guayaquil is among the world's biggest sites for selling pirate merchandise, raising concerns that the burgeoning industry could be funding organized criminal groups.

As El Universo reports, the U.S. Department of Commerce lists the city’s Bahia marketplace as one of the 20 foremost centers for pirate merchandise in the world, and has called on local authorities to redouble their efforts to crack down on counterfeit goods. According to local officials, roughly 70 percent of the goods sold in the Bahia, which consists of 20 city blocks and 5,000 booths, are illegitimate.

A trip through the facility reveals all manner of goods -- shoes, clothes, electronics, CDs, DVDs, etc. -- available at discounts from anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of the original retail price, according to the report.

While authorities don’t have reliable statistics regarding the revenue generated in the pirate merchandise, El Universo treats virgin discs, which are vital to the sale of pirate DVDs and CDs, as a proxy for trends within in the industry. The news on that front is worrying: according to Ecuadorean authorities, from 2007 to 2010, the number of virgin discs imported into the nation jumped from 27.5 million to 162.4 million.

As a result, legitimate CD and DVD manufacturers in Ecuador have lost some 95 percent of their market share, according to David Checa, of the Ecuadorean Society of Authors and Composers.

While the pirate vendors are an obvious concern for legitimate businesses whose revenues decline as pirate sales increase, authorities are also worried by the role of organized crime in producing and selling the illicit merchandise. The incursion of criminal groups into retail has earned attention in Mexico most of all, where the Zetas have long emblazoned pirate CDs sold in their territory with a “Z” logo, and the Familia Michoacana was recently accused of marketing knockoff Microsoft programs.

For criminal groups, the appeal is simple: it secures a consistent revenue stream for drug traffickers, whose primary income can be suddenly interrupted by seizures across the supply chain. This can help a group consolidate their control over the local underworld, which opens the door to other criminal enterprises like kidnapping and extortion.

However, the links between pirate merchandisers and organized crime are limited. Because piracy is labor-intensive and requires a fixed location, fugitive drug traffickers are less interested in overseeing a vast retail empire with low profit margins. Instead, by virtue of their firepower and links to corrupt law enforcement, they often charge pirate vendors for the right to operate in their territory.

Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, has long been linked to different criminal groups. The presence of the Sinaloa Cartel of Joaquin Guzman, alias "El Chapo," was laid bare with the January arrest of two Colombians working for the group. Sinaloa operatives, who operated in the region years prior to the January arrests, favor the port city as an exit point for drugs heading to Mexico via the Pacific Ocean.

Colombian rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) also operate in Ecuador, especially with the Colombian government crackdown in recent years. The guerrilla group is, however, more based in the sanctuaries in the northern regions bordering Colombia than in Guayaquil.

The port city is also the site of a thriving human trafficking industry which has been growing more closely linked to organized crime. Ecuador has grown more popular particularly as a stepping-stone for Asian and African immigrants seeking a route into the U.S.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ECUADOR / 20 MAY 2021

A string of brazen targeted killings in Ecuador showcases how violence between the country's criminal gangs is continuing to spiral…

BRAZIL / 11 JAN 2021

Within the span of a week, cocaine was discovered in two separate maritime cargo containers bound for Libya, a strong…

ECUADOR / 1 JUN 2021

Timber mafias operating along Ecuador’s borders with Peru and Colombia have been profiting from thriving demand for balsa wood.

About InSight Crime

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…