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Ecuadorian Authorities Seize Tons of Cocaine in Three Operations

Ecuadorian Authorities Seize Tons of Cocaine in Three Operations

By Guillermo Saavedra/Diálogo
March 17, 2021

In early February, Ecuadorian security forces carried out three important cocaine seizures in their continuing battle against transnational criminal organizations.

On February 6, the Ecuadorian Police reported on Twitter the seizure of more than 1 ton of cocaine on a road near Guayaquil Port. As part of Operation Reinforcement (operativo Refuerzo), units of the Police Anti-Drug Special Mobile Group intercepted a truck that was heading to the port.

Agents found 20 jute bags containing 1,190 drug packages in a false bottom of the truck’s trailer platform. “The packages, once subjected to field tests, were positive for cocaine, weighing 1 ton, 187 kilograms, 620 grams,” Ecuadorian Police General Giovanni Ponce, Anti-Drug Investigation national director, told the press.

The Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo reported that the drug was to be placed in an overseas-bound container. Authorities detained four Ecuadorian nationals: the truck driver and three individuals who were hiding in the trailer.

On February 3, during an overseas operation north of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Galápagos Islands, the Ecuadorian Navy, with the support of the U.S. Coast Guard, seized 3,785 liters of liquid cocaine mixed with gasoline, El Universo reported. Agents found the drug during the inspection of an Ecuadorian-flagged fishing vessel, which was dragging eight smaller boats. According to the newspaper, the vessel had departed from a port in Manta, in the country’s central coast. Authorities detained 22 people during the operation.

That same day, the Ministry of Government reported in a press release the seizure of more than half a ton of cocaine near Puná Island, Guayaquil Gulf. Police antinarcotics agents detained four men who were guarding a vessel containing 648 kg of cocaine hidden in 13 jute bags. Authorities allege that the criminals would depart from that island in speedboats and contaminate the ships that leave the port for international destinations, El Universo reported.

According to the newspaper, in the first weeks of 2021 until February 5, authorities have seized more than 10 tons of cocaine.

In a late 2019 report, InSight Crime, an organization that specializes in organized crime in Latin America, described Ecuador as a “cocaine superhighway to the U.S. and Europe”, and emphasized the role of the country’s ports in moving drugs. “Some gangs seek total control of shipment by using front export companies as a façade for their shipments (…). In other cases, they buy existing companies with long histories of clean exports to reduce the risk of them receiving anything but the most cursory inspection. Ostensibly legal export shipments are then arranged, and the cocaine is concealed within the products,” the organization reported. More than one third of the cocaine produced in Colombia travels to Ecuador to be shipped through its ports, coasts and airports, all over the world, InSight Crime concluded.