The Ecuadorean National Police dealt a major blow to narcotrafficking on October 2 by finding 1.5 tons of cocaine hidden in a shipment of tuna cans in the province of Manabí. According to the Anti-narcotics Investigative Unit of the Ecuadorean Police, the cocaine was bound for a port in Guayaquil, to continue toward Belgium, the institution reported in a press release.
A police commander in the Manabí area told the Ecuadorean newspaper El Universo that the suspicious maneuvers of a truck prompted its inspection, where agents found that the security seals on the boxes it transported had been tampered with. “When checking some boxes, agents suspected that they were contaminated, because the packaging was different, just like the tuna cans and also the label of the packaging company,” the officer told the newspaper.
In addition, U.S. State Department-donated and trained dogs from the Police’s Anti-narcotics Unit alerted agents to the presence of drugs in the boxes. The vehicle was transported to Manta’s Anti-narcotics Police Headquarters for a thorough inspection, where authorities determined that 181 boxes contained 8,670 cans of cocaine, totaling 1,523 kilograms of the drug.
According to Ecuador’s Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investment and Fisheries, the country is the world’s second largest tuna exporter after Thailand. Ecuadorean industries process 500,000 tons of tuna per year, exporting 80 percent, a December 2019 report by the Spanish Embassy in Ecuador indicated.
As such, smuggling drugs hidden in Ecuadorean tuna is not a novelty. In 2019, the Ecuadorean Police seized 298 kg of cocaine that was hidden in a tuna container bound for Europe, the Ecuadorean newspaper El Telégrafo reported. In 2016, according to Ecuador’s National Chamber of Fisheries, authorities found 392 kg of the drug in the port of Bilbao, Spain, hidden in a container with tuna cans from Ecuador. And in 2011, agents found 33 kg of the drug among tuna steaks also from Ecuador in a port in Galicia, Spain, the Spanish newspaper Faro de Vigo reported.
According to data provided to El Universo, Ecuadorean security forces have seized about 90 tons of drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, from January to early October 2020. In 2019, authorities seized 82 tons of drugs, the newspaper reported.