HomeNewsAnalysisEcuador the 'UN of Crime' and Venezuela the 'Refuge of Terrorism'?
ANALYSIS

Ecuador the 'UN of Crime' and Venezuela the 'Refuge of Terrorism'?

ECUADOR / 11 JUL 2011 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

The arrest of a suspected member of the Russian mafia in Ecuador has prompted a U.S. official to describe it as the "United Nations" of organized crime, while Venezuela is supposedly becoming the regional refuge for "terrorism."

On June 8 Ecuadorean authorities announced the arrest of Maxim Myasnikov, a Russian national wanted for crimes involving weapons and explosives, according to his Interpol profile. Wanted on extradition charges in Moscow, Myasnikov had allegedly been living in Ecuador since 2006 -- two years before a new law allowed visitors from almost every country in the world to gain an automatic, 90-day visa for the Andean nation.

According to national newspaper El Comercio, Myasnikov is among three Russians with pending extradition requests, believed to be hiding in Ecuador. One was reportedly extradited on April 30, 2010, while the other is still at large.

Myasnikov is not the only suspected member of an international criminal syndicate to be extradited from Ecuador this year. In May, authorities announced the extradition of an Eritean and 66 other nationals believed to be involved in a human smuggling ring that trafficked migrants from Asia and Africa. In April, police arrested a top leader of a powerful Colombian drug gang. More recently, Ecuador extradited a member of Colombia's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), accused of handling business deals with the Sinaloa Cartel. The Mexican group is also believed to have operations based in the country.

These kinds of incidents appear to support a recent statement by Jay Bergman, the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) operations in the Andes, who said that Ecuador is becoming the "United Nations" of organized crime.

Ecuador's growing importance as a meeting ground for transnational crime contrasts to Venezuela's reported emergence as the new hotspot for illegal armed groups. According to a June 8 hearing held by a U.S. Subcommitee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, Venezuela is increasingly hospitable to Hezbollah, a militant Muslim group. Colombian rebel groups the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia·(Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional - ELN) are also believed to have encampments and supply networks based in Venezuela.

InSight Crime considers that concerns about the growth of transnational criminal organizations in Ecuador are justified. There are several uncomfortable developments in Ecuador that have contributed to this phenomenon: political unstability, lax visa policies, proximity to some of Colombia's most prolific drug cultivation areas and the adoption of the U.S. dollar as official currency (which has facilitated money laundering). The country's unofficial policy of tolerance and inaction towards the FARC, which has lasted decades, has granted the rebel group a key area for rest and regrouping, out of reach from the Colombian security forces. The ongoing presence of the FARC has also indirectly drawn Mexican groups like the Sinaloa Cartel, who seek to do business with the guerrillas on Ecuadorean territory and buy cocaine.

In contrast, concerns about the growth of "terrorist" threats in Venezuela may be overstated. A panel of experts, who testified before the U.S. Subcommittee hearing, did offer convincing evidence that Hezbollah has some presence in Venezuela. Multiplie panel members testifed that Margarita Island, about 200 miles from Caracas, is likely a fundraising center for the group; Venezuela's close diplomatic relationship with Iran was also identified as a major concern for U.S. policy interests.

Yet as pointed out by analyst James Bosworth, Hezbollah is a relatively containable threat in Latin America. The group does have cells in Latin America, but their ability to threaten or disturb regional security is insignficant when compared to groups like the FARC or the Sinaloa Cartel. A much bigger priority, in terms of regional security interests, may be the growth of Russian, Colombian, Mexican, Chinese and other crime networks in nearby Ecuador. But there is no indication that any U.S. subcommittees will be holding hearings on the topic anytime soon.

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

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 3 DEC 2010

In a move that many analysts see as potentially destabilizing for the region, Venezuela will begin to manufacture Kalashnikov rifles…

COLOMBIA / 27 AUG 2015

On August 19, following an attack that left three military wounded and which the government attributed to paramilitaries,…

COLOMBIA / 9 MAR 2011

(Originally published 3 March, reprinted with permission from Adam Isacson and Just the Facts.) The State…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.