The United States delivered $3.1 million to the Ecuadorian Armed Forces in military, communications, and infrastructure equipment to support the strengthening of their capabilities in the fight against crime, the U.S. Embassy in the South American country said.
“Support between both countries is vital to combat situations that affect the security of the Ecuadorian people,” U.S. Air Force Colonel Jaime Gómez, U.S. Defense Attaché, said during the delivery. “The United States continues to invest in Ecuador’s priority areas.”
“There is always talk of public or private cooperation in the economic field, why isn’t there talk in the area of security?” Fernando Carrión, an academic from the Department of Political Studies of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) at Quito (Ecuador) told Diálogo on October 7. “We must seek international cooperation to invest economic resources, because the violence is generating an economic problem. Today, a good economic policy is a security policy.”
The donation, delivered on August 3, will allow the Ecuadorian Army and Navy to focus $1.3 million for the construction of the new River Maintenance Center for the 19th Napo Jungle Brigade, $1.1 million for military equipment, and $747,000 for communications equipment for the San Lorenzo Marine Infantry Brigade.
The funds are part of U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) commitment to maritime interdiction operations along the northern border and associated Amazonian waterways. “This delivery is another demonstration of the close collaboration between Ecuador and the United States,” Col. Gómez said.
Cooperation between the United States and Ecuador is based on joint work to strengthen the security of Ecuadorians, expanding the fight against drug and human trafficking, organized crime, illegal mining, and other threats, the Embassy indicated.
Additionally, the Ecuadorian government expects to shield 730 kilometers of border with Colombia, thanks to a security cooperation agreement with the United States, Ecuadorian television network Ecuavisa reported. The operation will be carried out with satellite information to locate illicit crops, laboratories, illegal crossings, storage areas, and shipments, to stop the passage of drugs between the departments of Nariño and Putumayo, bordering Esmeraldas, Carchi, and Sucumbíos, where there are an estimated 32,000 hectares of coca plantations.
International cooperation plays a crucial role for the country’s security and economy, especially when narcotrafficking has been a major challenge to overcome in recent years.
According to French state media France 24, Interior Minister Juan Zapata confirmed the seizure of more than 510 tons of drugs between May 2021 and September 2023. Zapata added that Ecuador became the third nation with the most seizures worldwide.
“Crime evolves in a much more accelerated way, because […] transnational organizations such as mafias, cartels, commandos […], stopped paying national organizations in dollars and started paying them in drugs,” Carrión said. “That is why national crime had to enter the local market, with the ensuing increase in violence and drug consumption in the country.”
Ecuador is at the center of drug transit from Colombia and Peru. However, after 2016, local groups opted to itap into the manufacturing and distribution processes with cartels from Mexico and Albania, The New York Times reported on August 17.
“Ecuador consumes between 80 and 90 tons of drugs, a very large amount for a small country,” Carrión added. “More or less 800 tons transit through Ecuador to the Pacific Rim via Central America, Mexico, and the United States and through the Amazon Basin to Brazil, which is the second largest consumer of coca in the world, from there to Europe, Asia and Oceania.”
Drug traffickers have permeated Ecuador’s banana industry, which produces 30 percent of the world’s bananas and is the largest exporter with 6.5 million tons annually, Voice of America reported in September.
Ecuador’s National Police identified 56 banana exporting companies involved in drug trafficking cases, which names were not disclosed, Ecuavisa reported. The drug shipments are hidden among containers that leave Ecuadorian ports bound for Europe daily.
Based on a report from the National Police’s Anti-Narcotics Unit, Argentine news site Infobae reported that the Mexican Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels, as well as the Balkan mafia, operate in Ecuador.
During the first International Meeting on Management and Final Disposal of Drugs and Chemical Precursors and Dismantling of Clandestine Laboratories held on September 19 in Quito, Deputy Director of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) in Quito Darby Parliament stressed that the United States will continue to support the fight against criminal gangs that want to destabilize the country and the region, SwissInfo reported.