Authorities in Ecuador believe a police captain played a central role in coordinating the Ecuadorean side of one of the biggest drug trafficking networks the country has seen, highlighting the key role corruption has played in establishing Ecuador as a transshipment route.
Among those arrested was a police captain, who was a "key piece" of the organization, intelligence sources told newspaper El Comercio. The captain allegedly coordinated security logistics for trafficking operations and passed on information about police operations.
According to Ecuador's Interior Ministry, the network brought cocaine across the Colombian border and transported it to storage points in the Pacific provinces of Manabí and Guayas. The drug shipments would later be dispatched towards Central America using a system of go-fast boats.
Authorities also believe the ring was linked to a series of murders and the threatening of police and prosecutors to protect their operations.
InSight Crime Analysis
The police captain's allegedly central role in the trafficking ring is far from an isolated incident in Ecuador. According to statistics obtained by El Comercio, 61 police officers have been removed from their posts since 2013 because of alleged links to drug traffickers.
Previous cases have involved top-ranking officers, including a major and a colonel who formerly served as the head of Interpol in Ecuador. The persecution of corrupt police has even led to deadly clashes, such as the 2015 shootout between police allegedly transporting drugs and their colleagues, which claimed the lives of two officers.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Ecuador
In the latest case, the police captain allegedly helped run what would be, if the authorities' allegations prove true, one of the most significant Ecuadorean-led transnational drug trafficking networks ever dismantled, potentially marking an evolution in Ecuadorean organized crime.
The service these corrupt officials provide, passing on information and arranging security and smooth passage for shipments, is a key component of any large-scale trafficking operations and any such evolution would not have been possible without it.