In January, Ecuador’s National Police stepped up its fight against arms and explosives trafficking, capturing 19 criminals involved in the transport, stockpiling, and distribution of arms and ammunition.
Police carried out Operation Armed Border (Operación Frontera Armada) in the provinces of Carchi, Imbabura, Pichincha, Cañar, Azuay, El Oro, and Loja. During the operation, authorities conducted raids, seizing rifles, carbines, shotguns, ammunition, and explosives, which were to be sold to criminal groups in Colombia and Ecuador.
Among those arrested, Police said, was alias Caluqui, accused of leading the criminal organization that provided the arsenal used in the November 2022 attacks in the cities of Guayaquil, Durán, and Esmeraldas, which left five police officers dead and led to a new state of emergency, BBC News Mundo reported.
Ecuadorian sociologist Daniel Pontón Cevallos, an expert in public policy and security and dean of the School of Security and Defense of Ecuador’s Institute of Higher National Studies, spoke with Diálogo January 30 and pointed out that arms and ammunition trafficking is one of the main problems affecting the security of Ecuadorian society. “Violent events in the country are exacerbated in prisons and on the streets. An example of this is that 80 percent of homicides in Ecuador are committed with firearms,” he said.
Ecuador’s Interior Minister Juan Zapata told the press that the criminals arrested were sending weapons, ammunition, and explosives through packages and vehicles fitted out for smuggling. “The main objective of the organization was to supply and strengthen FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] dissidents and other organized criminal groups operating in the country, and also, obviously on the northern border, as well as supplying criminal groups in our country,” Zapata said.
Zapata explained that Special forces agents, Police officers, and members of the Attorney General’s Office found that the criminals used pre-established routes from southern Ecuador to the province of Imbabura to temporary stockpile the merchandise and then distribute it in Colombia.
“Ecuadorians deserve to live in peace. Together with the Ecuadorian Armed Forces and the Police we will fight against every individual, group, or organization that pretends otherwise,” Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso said via Twitter. “Every weapon seized today is a life that we have protected from violence.”
The president also thanked his Colombian counterpart for his cooperation and the investigations in dismantling the criminal group. “This is the result of intelligence work. Rest assured that we will continue to strike decisive blows to eliminate violent groups that threaten the tranquility and peace of the citizens.”
General Fausto Salinas, general commander of Ecuador’s National Police, stated that the explosives found in the operations are of Peruvian origin. He added that prior to Operation Armed Border, the Colombian National Police (PNC) had arrested five arms smugglers in its territory.
In March 2022, Gen. Salinas added, the PNC detained in Nariño department a shipment of pentolite, an explosive for industrial and military use, which was to be delivered to criminal groups in Colombia. In another intervention on November 1, the PNC seized a vehicle loaded with explosives.
“These actions helped to feed the ongoing investigation against this gang in different Ecuadorian provinces,” Gen. Salinas said.
“Ecuador has been and continues to be a transit point for weapons from Paraguay and Peru bound for Colombia, however, many of these weapons remain in our country and go to criminal organizations and detention centers,” Pontón said. “In Ecuador there is an increase in narcoterrorist activities in border areas and ports such as Guayaquil, Durán, and Esmeraldas, in addition to the provinces of Los Ríos and El Oro, which border Peru.”
“The work of Ecuador’s National Police in the fight against crime is and will be forceful,” Gen. Salinas said via Twitter.