Authorities have destroyed two coca plantations on the Ecuadorean side of the country's border with Colombia in the latest discovery to shine a light on the small scale but seemingly growing coca cultivation in Ecuador, which is likely linked to Colombia's FARC guerrillas.
The Ecuadorean military burned approximately 8,500 coca plants hidden in one and a half hectares of thick undergrowth just 100 meters from the river that divides Colombia and Ecuador, reported AFP.
The army unit discovered the plants in the northeastern province of Sucumbios, which borders the Colombian coca growing region of Putumayo.
In 2012, the Ecuadorean military destroyed over 173,000 coca plants and 3,000 poppy plants in the border region, mostly in the provinces of Sucumbios in the east and Esmeraldas in the West.
InSight Crime Analysis
According to the last United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime crop monitoring report on Ecuador, in 2009 just 25 hectares of coca was under cultivation in the country.
The size of the coca plantations recently discovered would suggest cultivation currently remains small scale, is well-hidden and very close to the border. However, they would also suggest the total area under cultivation has grown considerably since the report was released.
Cultivation in the region is likely to be linked to the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which oversees much of the coca cultivation in Colombia and, according to InSight Crime's field investigations, has been consolidating its presence in the border region in recent years.
The rebels sell their coca to Colombia's BACRIM, or process and sell the cocaine to larger criminal organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel.