Quito police have identified dozens of micro-trafficking hotspots within the Ecuadorean capital, as well as the groups running them, offering further evidence of the rise of domestic consumption amid the country's growing status as an international drug transshipment point.
In one central section of the capital alone -- the neighborhood of San Roque -- anti-narcotics police have noted the presence of 37 marijuana vendors, while cocaine sales in the same area are apparently controlled by two groups, reported El Comercio.
Another key neighborhood in the city's micro-trafficking trade is the upscale La Mariscal area, which has seen a rise in drug activity as it has become more popular with tourists. According to authorities, both sectors were formerly under the control of the Cordillera gang, a Colombian organization that controlled a large portion of drug trafficking and money laundering in the city. One Cordillera leader, Oscar Alcantara Gonzalez, was arrested in March in Quito, where he had been based since 2010.
Earlier this year, it was reported that micro-trafficking was on the rise in ten cities across the country, amid reports of growing activity from Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel and the identification of more than 100 drug routes into the country from neighboring Colombia and Peru.
InSight Crime Analysis
In recent years, Ecuador has become an increasingly important transit point for transnational drug trafficking networks, with weak port security allowing trafficking groups to increase their reliance on shipping containers.
As large quantities of drugs continue to move through the country, Ecuador has seen the growth of domestic micro-trafficking networks -- likely spurred by transnational groups paying local operatives in product.
See Also: Coverage of Ecuador
Despite the increase in domestic networks, Ecuador's drug trade is still dominated by foreign groups, with Colombia's Urabeños notable players alongside the likes of the Sinaloa Cartel. The Cordillera reportedly controlled the majority of micro-trafficking in Quito for several years, earning up to $20,000 a day. However, Alcantara's arrest has likely left the organization exposed to challenges from other organizations keen to claim a stake in Quito's increasingly lucrative micro-trafficking trade.