After a more than two-year operation, Colombia and Ecuador dismantled transnational narcotrafficking organization Los Curva, following the January 6 capture in Colombia of two brothers identified as the leaders of the gang, Argentine news site Infobae reported.
According to Operation Gran Fénix, carried out by Ecuador’s National Police, Navy, and Attorney General’s Office, together with the Colombian National Police, the group operated a trafficking route using various means of transport to move more than 5 tons of cocaine to the United States and Europe monthly.
“One of the factors that most influences the emergence of criminal groups such as Los Curva is the configuration of organized crime in the region. We are no longer talking about unified hierarchical groups, those super structures that were once known as cartels. Now here the panorama is very fragmented,” Glaeldys González, an expert with International Crisis Group Ecuador, a think tank that conducts research on global crises, told Diálogo on January 27. “These very small, local groups specialize in something very specific in the drug trafficking supply chain and they insert themselves there. So, what they do is provide a very punctual service to larger structures.”
The brothers Háder and Dairon Cuero Valencia, alias Curva and alias Chanchi, were the subjects of a global hunt via an Interpol red notice and wanted for extradition by the United States for drug trafficking, among other crimes, El Colombiano newspaper reported.
The investigation found that the brothers operated their drug trafficking structure from the Pacific coast of Colombia’s Valle del Cauca and Nariño provinces, as well as from Ecuador’s Esmeraldas province, Colombian news outlet WRadio reported.
The shipments were then sent to the United States and Europe, transiting Central America through alliances with Mexican cartels and drug trafficking organizations in Ecuador.
“This is a response to the efforts of the States to dismantle these groups. As a result, smaller ones emerge that become more resilient to these external blows, or to these actions by the security forces to dismantle them,” González said. “These groups are more difficult to identify, as they are not linked to the whole supply chain, but only to part of it.”
According to Ecuador’s Interior Ministry, the group operated by sea and coordinated criminals from both countries along the Ecuadorian coast to deliver the drugs to specific points on the high seas. The packages were delivered at specific coordinates to Mexican-flagged vessels off the coast of Mexico.
“Little by little there is a greater criminal specialty and know-how, which means that these structures are being reproduced in a systematic and increasingly aggressive way,” Dr. Daniel Pontón, an Ecuadorian security expert and professor at the Higher National Studies Institute’s School of Security and Defense, told Diálogo.
The Colombian Navy and National Police estimated that Los Curva made profits of more than $2 billion a year, due to their relationship with the Sinaloa Cartel and the Balkan Cartel, reported Mexican media Radio Fórmula.
“They [the criminal groups] found fertile ground in money laundering, violating institutional structures such as ports and airports, and institutional corruption,” Pontón said. “Above all, in the Ecuadorian criminal gangs that operate in coordination with these types of groups, there is the social issue, because they systematically recruit young people from marginalized neighborhoods.”
The security forces involved in this operation stressed that dismantling such an organization involved in illicit drug trafficking must be done through coordinated international interagency work, Ecuadorian daily La Hora reported.
The United States, which is dedicated to the war against drugs worldwide and has longstanding ties of friendship with both countries has strengthened its support to dismantle these transnational crime groups. For instance, in late January, following the visit of a U.S. delegation to Ecuador to address ways to combat transnational crime and to deliver more than $1 million worth in support in the form of critical security and emergency equipment, the U.S. government committed to accelerate bilateral security cooperation, expand access to legal markets, and increase investment with a view to generating employment France 24 reported.