The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has allocated $5.8 million in additional funds to Ecuador to strengthen its fight against narcotrafficking and transnational crime. Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso presided over the handover ceremony on August 27, 2021, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The new allocation “aims to commit resources to improve the country’s operational capacity to prevent, mitigate, intercept, investigate, prosecute, and punish high-impact crimes related to transnational criminal organizations, with a focus on drug trafficking,” Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo said in the statement.
Heide Fulton, deputy assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Programs in the INL, explained that the increase in funds “will enable us to train, equip, and provide technical assistance to the National Police [PNE, in Spanish], the Ecuadorian Coast Guard Command, the Judiciary, and prosecutors and financial intelligence analysts in the country. Ecuador is a leader in stopping the influx of drugs into the United States,” the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador reported.
According to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United States, through the INL, has handed out more than $25 million to Ecuador since 2018 to strengthen control of illicit drug production and trafficking.
Since the INL in Quito reopened in 2019, the United States has provided capacity building courses for hundreds of security officers in different institutions. It has also provided tactical, technological, and training equipment, vehicles, and dogs to increase Ecuador’s capacity to stop the drug flow to other countries, the U.S. Embassy said.
InSight Crime, an investigation and journalism organization specializing in organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean, said that more than a third of Colombia’s cocaine production arrives in Ecuador, and then departs for the United States, Europe, Asia, and Oceania.
On September 8, the PNE and the Ecuadorian Navy dismantled a narcotrafficking gang. During the operation, authorities captured 19 criminals and seized 500 kilograms of cocaine, which were being transported in a speedboat in the Galapagos Islands, bound for Central America and later the United States, Manuel Iñigez, Ecuadorian police general director of investigations, said on Twitter.
In another operation in Guayaquil, on September 5, the PNE arrested two narcotraffickers and seized 1 ton of cocaine that was in a container bound for Libya, Colonel Manuel Gómez, PNE anti-narcotics chief for zone 8, said on Twitter. A canine unit discovered the drug, hidden in a banana shipment, he added.
Since August 2021, Ecuador has surpassed the number of seizures made during all of 2020, with a total of 120 tons of drugs, the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo reported. It added that authorities seized 122 tons of cocaine from January 1 to September 6, 2021.
“The increase in funds demonstrates the U.S. commitment […] to combat insecurity, violence, and impunity,” Fulton said. “This is reflected in the different meetings we have held with representatives of the Executive and the Senate of that great country [the United States], always with the positive spirit and the political will to strengthen our ties in the most diverse areas,” President Lasso concluded.