Colombia and Ecuador agreed to strengthen cooperation between their armed forces for a greater impact in the fight against transnational crime, especially on the border. So said Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano Aponte and Ecuadorian Minister of Defense Admiral Fernando Donoso Morán during a binational meeting in Ipiales, Nariño department, Colombia, in early July.
The meeting, held under the Binational Annual Operational Plan 2021 between both countries, aimed to strengthen cooperation in defense and security against regional threats, such as organized crime, narcotrafficking, smuggling, human trafficking, illegal extractive activities, and other related crimes, the Ecuadorian Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.
Among the issues discussed at the meeting, the ministers highlighted the importance of making progress in controlling illegal border crossings, with greater cooperation between both countries’ authorities, the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo reported. Concerning illegal border crossings, Donoso said that authorities will make every effort to close them. For his part, Molano said that the crossing over the Mataje River — a bordering river and one of the main routes for drug transport — requires the joint presence of both countries’ authorities and increased intelligence exchange efforts, the newspaper reported.
According to a December 2020 report by Colombian magazine Semana, the 586 meter-long border between Ecuador and Colombia has become one of the largest narcotrafficking trade points in the region, where up to 20 criminal groups, including dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and Mexican cartels, fight for control over the area.
“[The drug] is grown in Colombia, Nariño and Putumayo departments; the labs are kept [there]; but on the other hand, all that drug is transferred to Ecuador, to collection centers and international distribution platforms. Ninety-seven to 95 percent of the drugs that are bound for the United States leave through the Pacific and leave through Colombia and Ecuador,” Colonel (Ret.) Mario Pazmiño, former Ecuadorian Army Intelligence director, said in an interview with Semana.
The international organization InSight Crime, which specializes in security threats in Latin America, describes Ecuador as a cocaine highway to the United States and Europe. According to the organization, cocaine transits through Ecuador via the Pacific route, supplied mostly with cocaine produced in Nariño that enters Ecuador through tributaries of the Mataje River, and also via the Amazon route, supplied with cocaine produced in Putumayo and that enters through the Ecuadorian province of Sucumbíos.
“Narcotrafficking is the greatest threat to stability in both countries, which is why we have agreed to carry out mirror-like operations between the armed forces of both countries, seeking greater operational impact, information exchange, and air and maritime controls,” Colombian Minister Molano said.
The meeting concluded with the signing of a Joint Declaration, where “they reiterated the importance of maintaining a continuous dialogue to monitor and coordinate operations against the presence of external actors, which have increased in the region and which constitute a threat to the hemisphere,” the Colombian Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.
“Faced with the common threats that we now have, we are more united than ever and ready to collaborate in the fight against organized crime and against any threat that may disrupt the security of our countries,” Ecuadorian Minister Donoso said.