Ecuador's authorities announced they had seized more than $1.5 million of narcotics that were to be sold in Quito which may point to a growth in domestic drug consumption.
Since the beginning of 2012, anti-narcotics police detained some 1.6 tons of drugs in the country's capital, of which 98 percent was marijuana, and the remainder mostly cocaine. The drugs had a combined value of $1.53 million, reported El Universo.
National police chief Patricio Franco stated that these operations also saw 327 people arrested, 305 of whom were Ecuadorean.
According to Ecuadorean security analyst Ricardo Camacho, these figures demonstrate a rise in the country's drug consumption, which he told EFE news agency has grown 300 percent since 2007.
InSight Crime Analysis
Despite being a major transit point for drugs, particularly cocaine trafficked from Colombia, Ecuador historically has one of the lowest rates of domestic consumption in Latin America. According to the most recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report, though cocaine use in Ecuador appeared to be on the increase, it still ranked far below the region's main consumers such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile.
However, these statistics, along with those from the Organization of American States' (OAS) 2011 report, which similarly ranked Ecuador low for drug consumption in the Americas, are based on 2007 findings from the country, making Camacho's claim of a three-fold increase in five years hard to prove. Though the US State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2012 also states the country has an "increasing problem of domestic drug consumption," up to date figures are yet to be released. What's more, the increase in seizures may point to more successful police operations rather than a wider availability of drugs.
Thirteen percent of all narcotics seized in Ecuador this year were for the Quito drug market, reported El Comercio. Though the high percentage of Ecuadoreans arrested so far in 2012 would suggest these networks remain largely in the hands of local gangs, last year's arrest of the head of the Colombian Cordillera gang, a group that allegedly controlled much of Quito's drug market, showed that foreign organizations may have a significant stake in Ecuador's micro-trafficking.
Image above shows Ecuador's National Police displaying seizures from recent operations against micro-traffickers.