Ecuador has been experiencing increased violence, including car bombs and prison riots, which have resulted in nearly 400 death in little more than a year, France 24 reported on May 25.
“A series of factors such as geographic proximity to Colombia, a porous border, corruption, new criminal alliances, Mexican cartels, disputes over trafficking routes, and the increase in violence largely explain the rise in homicides, especially in the ports of Guayaquil and Esmeraldas,” Renato Rivera, a researcher with the Quito-based Latin American Network for the Analysis of Security and Organized Crime, told Diálogo.
“The fight against violence has to defeat the international mafias who believe that Ecuador is theirs,” Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso told CNN Español on May 16. “We are going to win this battle, especially with the support of good friends.”
We are not alone
“The participation of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense is structured to increase cooperation with Ecuador,” Rivera said. “The United States is the most important player that Ecuador has in terms of narcotrafficking with resources, training, technology, and information exchange.”
“We are not alone, we have the support of the United States, the United Kingdom, Colombia, who as good friends and brothers are backing us in a fight that isn’t easy; we are in a containment phase to then enter a drawdown phase to reduce the level of violence,” added Lasso.
As such, Ecuador and Peru have agreed to boost cooperation in border security to strengthen the fight against transnational crime in all its forms: human, drug, arms, ammunition, and explosives trafficking; illegal mining, and smuggling, the Presidency of Ecuador said. Ecuador also participates in the Orion Naval Campaign to Combat Drug Trafficking, a 40-country operation led by the Colombian Navy.
According to Rivera, the Mexican Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) and Sinaloa cartels are key players in smuggling by air along the Ecuadorian coast. “The planes come and go from Central America, many with Mexican flags; they bring weapons and money, cocaine and gasoline,” he added.
Ecuadorian newspaper Primicias reported that Ecuador’s largest criminal gang, Los Choneros, supports the Oliver Sinisterra Front, a dissident group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the Sinaloa Cartel. Their rivals, Los Tiguerones, collaborate with the CJNG and the Urías Rondón Mobile Column, another FARC dissident group.
“The pressure from the Mexican cartels to comply with shipments, added to the growing participation of European organizations and Albanian mafias, which are extremely violent, are putting pressure on narcotrafficking in the country,” Rivera said.
In 2021, Ecuadorian authorities dismantled more than 1,350 gangs, seized more than 7,500 weapons and 231 tons of drugs, including cocaine and marijuana. By the end of May 2022, authorities had seized 85 tons of drugs, triple the amount seized in the previous year in the same period, Lasso said via Twitter.
Ecuador will modernize its security forces with international training and the acquisition of equipment, weapons, ammunition, and technology to strengthen law enforcement intelligence, Lasso announced in early April.
“Through the Ministry of the Interior and with international support we will invest $1.2 billion over the next three years to strengthen our police force,” Lasso said. The National Police will have 30,000 new uniformed officers, he concluded.