Ecuadorean security forces crack down on drug trafficking
By Dialogo May 12, 2014
Ecuadorean security forces achieved a series of important victories in April in the fight against drug trafficking by organized crime.
During the month Ecuadorean Armed Forces and National Police dismantled an alleged international drug trafficking network; captured a semi-submersible an organized crime group was using to transport drugs; and broke up a micro-drug trafficking ring.
Agents with the Anti-Narcotics Investigative Unit of the National Police dismantled an international drug trafficking network on April 24 in Guayaquil. Police agents captured seven suspects and seized 30 kilos of cocaine. The suspects are from Ecuador, Colombia, and Mexico, according to the National Police.
The alleged drug trafficking ring recruited people to serve as drug “mules” that would hide drugs in luggage and transport them on international commercial flights departing from Quito and Guayaquil.
Armed Forces capture semi-submersible
On April 2, elements of the Navy, the Marines and the Coast Guard captured a semi-submersible in the Jambeli Channel, about three nautical miles off the island of Puna Vieja.
Drug traffickers allegedly used the semi-submersible to transport drugs.
The 15-meter long vessel was carrying several packages of suspected cocaine, authorities said. The Armed Forces is continuing to investigate.
The semi-submersible was the second such vessel captured by the Ecuadorean Armed Forces in a period of seven months.Capt. Santiago Vallejo
In October 2013, Ecuadorean and Colombian security forces collaborated to capture a semi-submersible that authorities suspected was being used by organized crime operatives to transport drugs. During the operation, Ecuadorean security forces located the small submarine on the coast near the town of Limones, in the province of Esmeraldas. The area is near the Colombian border.
Micro-drug trafficking network dismantled in Quito
In another successful security operation, National Police agents conducted a series of raids in south Quito during the first week of April. The security operation dismantled a network of micro-traffickers, Col. Mauro Vargas, chief of the Anti-Narcotics Unit of Pichinca, said during an April 5 press conference.
“We raided 14 houses, in various sectors of the city, particularly in the area of Solanda, J Street and Chilibulo,” Vargas told reporters. “We are strongly committed to eradicate, or diminish in a definite way, the problem of consumption and domestic sale of (drugs).”
Anti-Narcotics agents captured 21 suspected drug dealers during the operation. The agents also seized about 2,100 doses of cocaine.
Months of intelligence work and investigation led to a successful operation, Vargas said. “What’s important is that we had enough evidence thanks to the vigilance, and we believe there will be an exemplary sanction for these people,” Vargas said.
The successful operation will help keep young people away from drugs, Capt. Santiago Vallejo, of the Anti-Narcotics Investigative Unit of the National Police in the provincia of Pinchincha, said during the press conference.
“We have worked to rescue the youth from these crimes, and the evidence found speaks to the outcomes,” Vallejo said. “We want to give back peace to Solanda and to maintain the confidence of the people in the National Police.”
Anti-Narcotics agents seize 200 kilos of cocaine in Guayaquil
In another successful security operation, on April 7, agents from the Anti-Narcotics Unit confiscated about 200 kilos cocaine and arrested 12 suspects in three neighborhoods in northern Guayaquil.
Anti-Narcotics agents raided houses in the cooperative San Ignacio of Monte Sianí, in Urdenor and in Ciudad Colón, both in Guayaquil. Agents also raided a house in the Milann community.
Prosecutor Danny Vizueta accompanied the Anti-Narcotics Unit agents on the raids.
“The drug is shaped as blocks and was packaged with grey tape, and on top there was a substance that seems to be coffee, to confuse the anti-narcotics dogs,” Vizueta said, according to an article published on the website of El Universo on April 7. “Later it would possibly put aboard a ship to take it out of the country.”
The suspects include two Ecuadoreans, five Colombians, three Spaniards, one Dominican, and one Dutch person.
Renewed efforts and technologies
During a press conference in March in Guayaquil, Interior Minister, José Serrano emphasized the need for collaboration among countries in the region in the fight against drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations.
“We are putting everything on the table to protect the Ecuadorean people from this illegal business,” Serrano said.
Ecuador has positive ongoing cooperation agreements on security issues with Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Mexico.
Ecuadorean security forces provided information to the Mexican Navy which helped Mexico capture drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in February, Serrano said in a press statement in March.
El Chapo is the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, the world’s largest transnational criminal organization. The Sinaloa Cartel operates in Ecuador and other Latin American countries.
Tighter security measures
Ecuador is using improved technology to fight drug trafficking.
For example, in coming months Ecuador will install high-tech electronic equipment to check the 25,000 or so containers which are sent per month from the port in Guayaquil, which is operated by the company Contecon. The port in Guayaquil is the busiest seaport in the country.
The scanners will allow for the inspection of 120 containers per hour, increasing efficiency and making it much more difficult for drug traffickers to use the port.
The scanners will be connected to the Ecuadorean Customs department, Serrano said.
“The aim is to reach the standard of six percent of the containers coming out of our national ports [will be inspected]. We will implement it in 2014,” Serrano said.
Security forces confiscated at least 10 tons of drugs between January and March 2014, according to the Ministry of Interior. From 2009 through 2013, security forces seized 241 tons of drugs.