HomeNewsAnalysisSecurity Forces Warn Organized Crime May Overwhelm Ecuador
ANALYSIS

Security Forces Warn Organized Crime May Overwhelm Ecuador

ECUADOR / 8 MAR 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

An assessment by the security forces reportedly says that Ecuador is home to an increasing number of organized criminal groups, and that the authorities have underestimated the problem.

El Comercio reports that a review by the military says that drug trafficking and organized crime may soon overwhelm the country, if "adequate measures" are not taken in time.

According to the newspaper, the 225-page report warns that if drug-related violence rises, the army will be charged with tackling the problem.

Foreign drug trafficking organizations like the Sinaloa Cartel have been present in Ecuador "for years," according to a police intelligence report quoted by El Comercio.

According to the newspaper, the police report suggests that the security forces have underestimated the extent of the problem because drug-related killings are relatively low compared to Mexico. "What is worrying is that the authorities do not fully understand what is happening with the problem of organized crime. The 'Mexico effect' is not yet visible in Ecuador," the report says.

The police assessment reportedly says that the main entry points for drug shipments include the cities of Macara, Tulcan, San Lorenzo, and Nueva Loja (see map, below). The primary exit points for drug shipments headed overseas are the port cities of Manta, Esmeraldas, Muisne, Puna, Rocafuerte, and Puerto Bolivar.

Drug traffickers use go-fast boats and submarines to transport their wares from the coast, then meet up with boats on the high seas who collect the cocaine loads and take them to Honduras, the document reportedly says. Other times, go-fast boats stop at the Galapagos islands to refuel and continue on to Central America.

The report adds that two major drug seizures in 2007 and 2008, part of an operation dubbed Green Hurricane, are evidence of Ecuador's increased importance as a drug transit country for transnational criminal groups. During the operation, narcotics police seized 3.78 tons of cocaine in southern Ecuador, and another 4.70 tons near the border with Colombia.

These reported negative assessments from the security forces are an indication that they believe they lack the resources to properly confront organized crime. The government recently ordered some 7,000 soldiers and 3,000 police to the northern frontier with Colombia, after President Rafael Correa said that border was "the gravest security problem facing the country."

But the northern border region is just one part of the problem. Along the country's coasts, trafficking gangs are increasingly reliant on semi-submersibles to transport cocaine. Police found a 12-acre poppy field in central Ecuador in December, a highly unusual discovery in a country that is generally free of illicit drug crops. In Quito, Colombian gangs have been accused of controlling much of the local drug trade. One US drug official described Ecuador as the "United Nations" of organized crime, due to the number of transnational criminal groups (including Russian and Chinese) that have set up shop here.

Mexican groups in particular have a growing foothold in Ecuador. In February, police arrested a man described as the main link between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombian drug trafficker Daniel Barrera, alias "El Loco." Authorities arrested nine operatives who allegedly worked for the Mexican group in Ecuador last year; the investigation also led to the arrest of a top Sinaloa Cartel lieutenant, Victor Felix, in Mexico. The Sinaloa Cartel reportedly has two armed cells working along Ecuador's southern border. According to the US State Department, the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, and Colombian rebel group the FARC all move cocaine through Ecuador.

If the security forces have in fact warned that organized crime could spill out of control unless measures are taken, this suggests that the situation is becoming critical. If authorities do not meet the challenge, it may yet turn into a national crisis.


View Macara in a larger map

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 / 2 DEC 2011

Quito’s police chief has warned that the Ecuadorean security forces may be involved in organized crime, noting that the professionalism…

BOLIVIA / 26 FEB 2021

While the seizure of 23 tons of cocaine by German, Belgian and Dutch police, the largest-ever haul of the drug…

EL SALVADOR / 5 JUN 2020

The entrance to the Honduran border town of Camasca is well guarded. A column of the army’s special forces stops…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.