Ecuadorean Minister Affirms Country Is Used As Drug Transit Route

By Dialogo
May 25, 2012

Ecuador continues to be a transit location for drugs and an intermediary in their sale, but the volume of trade is far from that in its neighbors Colombia and Peru, Interior Minister José Serrano said in an interview published on May 22.

“The country doesn’t grow drug crops. That means that the situation in Ecuador is different from that of our neighbors, and it’s used as a transit route for middlemen and sales,” Serrano told the Ecuadorean daily El Comercio.

In comparison to the volumes moved in Colombia and Peru, “the difference is substantial,” since in those countries “the majority of the drugs sold” on international markets “enter the market,” he added.

The official maintained that “it’s one thing for Ecuador to be a transit country, and something else for it to be a site for trade,” and he stressed that Ecuadorean territory “is used for the transit” of narcotics, with the support of local gangs.

“The drug business in the country operates from a middleman’s perspective. There’s a producer, that is, those drugs come from the south (Peru) or the north (Colombia), and they’re obviously going to Mexico. On the basis of that criterion, we have to investigate, get to know the links, and dismantle the gangs acting as middlemen,” he said.

Opposition sectors restarted their criticism of President Correa’s anti-drug policy following the May 13 crash of a small plane allegedly involved in drug trafficking, in the province of Manabí (on the Pacific Coast).

Two Mexican nationals died in the accident, while 1.3 million dollars, believed to have been intended for use in purchasing drugs or in a money-laundering operation, according to Serrano, were found at the crash site.

In response to the criticism, Correa dismissed the possibility that drug trafficking was getting out of control in his country, but he noted that “I would be irresponsible and a demagogue if I dismissed the possibility that drug cartels operate in Ecuador, as in all of Latin America.”

Between January and April, Ecuador seized around 12 tons of drugs, chiefly cocaine. Seizures of narcotics reached 26 tons in 2011, compared to 18 tons in 2010 and a record of 68 tons in 2009.