Ecuadorian authorities seized more than 190 tons of drugs in 2021, a record figure that exceeds by 58 percent the 120 tons seized in 2020, the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo reported. This means that the amount of drugs that authorities have seized in Ecuador has increased sevenfold in 10 years, when compared to the 26 tons of drugs that were seized in 2011, according to the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Government. The tally includes cocaine, cocaine base paste, heroin, marijuana, and other illicit substances.
This increase in seizures is due to several factors. On the one hand, Colombia has increased its cocaine production due to improvements in processes, technology, and manufacturing times, which allowed for a supply increase, the Ecuadorian news site Primicias reported. As a consequence, the production of pure cocaine hydrochloride in Colombia increased by 8 percent in 2020, which represents 1,228 tons, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said.
On the other hand, confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic affected drug transit and storage in Ecuador, an important link in the drug export chain, Cristian Fiallos, commander of the Ecuadorian Coast Guard Subcommand in Manabí, told Primicias. To all this was added the container crisis, which caused the produced drugs to be held up in the provinces of Guayas, Manabí, Esmeraldas, and Carchi, since it was impossible to ship them. The anti-narcotics police leveraged this situation to conduct a large number of drug seizure operations throughout 2021, Cmdr. Fiallos added.
“While not a major drug producing country, Ecuador is a major transit country for illicit drugs. Cocaine and heroin from Colombia and cocaine from Peru are trafficked through land borders and maritime routes,” the U.S. Department of State said in its 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, published on March 2. “Eighty percent of the cocaine bound for Europe and the United States leaves [through Guayaquil], hidden in merchant ships with bananas and other raw materials,” El Universo reported.
Given its geographic location between the world’s two largest cocaine producing countries (Colombia and Peru), Ecuador has been a transit country for a long time, and among the list of major drug transit countries since 2003, the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador said on September 17.
A plan for Ecuador
An important initiative that the Ecuadorian government is promoting to reverse this situation and confront narcotrafficking and the resulting crime and insecurity is the creation of the Ecuador Plan, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told BBC News during the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, United Kingdom, in November 2021. “We essentially need the international support of the United States, Colombia, and the European Union. I plan to promote that cooperation, because it is time for an Ecuador Plan,” he said.