US sees Ecuador emerging as new cocaine centre

BOGOTA,  (Reuters) – Ecuador is becoming a “United  Nations” of organized crime with drug traffickers from Albania  to China using it as a staging ground to strike deals with  freelance Andean cocaine smugglers, a U.S. official said.

Ecuador is sandwiched between the world’s top two cocaine  producers, Colombia and Peru, helping turn the Andean nation of  14 million into an under-recognized haven for international  drug deals, the anti-drugs official said.

“We have cases of Albanian, Ukrainian, Italian, Chinese  organized crime all in Ecuador, all getting their product for  distribution to their respective countries,” Jay Bergman, DEA  director for the Andean region of South America, told Reuters.

Colombian cartels controlled global cocaine distribution  networks in the 1980s but are now splintered and weakened after  a crackdown by the country’s security forces, backed by  billions of dollars in U.S. aid.

The Colombian gangs now work mainly as suppliers, handing  over dangerous trafficking jobs to Mexican cartels — who  control access to the world’s largest drugs market, the United  States — and other international crime groups working in  Europe, the No. 2 destination for illegal drugs.

With increased scrutiny in Colombia, traffickers prefer to  move drugs quickly across its land borders to Ecuador and  Venezuela and hook up with business partners, Bergman said.

“If I’m an Italian organized drug trafficker and I want to  meet with my Colombian counterpart … I would probably prefer  to meet in Ecuador than to meet in Colombia,” Bergman said.

“(It’s easier to) have my passport stamped as Ecuador and  say, ‘Yea, I went to the Galapagos islands for vacation,’“ he  said of the nature preserve made famous by Charles Darwin.

President Rafael Correa’s government insists it is doing  all it can to chase and deter traffickers inside Ecuador.

Bergman acknowledged the government was making strides  combating smugglers, including significant seizures like a  98-foot (30-meter) drug-toting submarine captured last year.

Ecuadorean police have also arrested top Colombian kingpins  and confiscated multi-ton shipments of cocaine.

“They are doing a pretty bang up job in terms of basic  interdictions with a fraction of the capabilities and the  resources of the Colombians,” he said.    Ecuadorean officials could not immediately be reached for  comment, but this weekend Correa appeared to win a referendum  to reform the justice system with measures he says will help  fight corruption and crime.

Correa dropped a visa requirement in 2008 so that visitors  from any country can stay for up to 90 days, in a move to  promote free movement and boost tourism.

But some Ecuadorean analysts say that has led to a spike in  the presence of foreign criminals. Ecuador modified the law  last year asking for tourist visas from several countries in  Africa and Asia.

Powerful Mexican cartels are the largest buyers of  Colombian cocaine to supply the massive U.S. market.

They buy mainly from Colombian producers, either leftist  guerrillas growing vast coca fields to fund a decades-long  insurgency or new criminal gangs that trace their origins back  to paramilitary groups, also veterans of Colombia’s conflict.

Latest in Archives

Michael DiLollo

CAL doesn’t need bailout yet -Chief Executive

(Trinidad Guardian) CAL doesn’t need a bailout just yet. That’s the declaration of its chief executive, Michael DiLollo. He said the airline had benefitted from extremely patient shareholders for years and believed the airline was strategically positioned to break even in three years.

Anil Nandlall

Nandlall says arrest of ex-guard appears as much ado about nothing

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall says the arrest of his ex-security guard in the investigation into the murder of Courtney Crum-Ewing appears as much ado about nothing.

President David Granger and Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (Photo via GINA)

T&T in full support of Guyana over Caracas decree -Persad-Bissessar

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar says her country is in full support of Guyana as it relates to recent decree made by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro over most of Guyana’s exclusive economic zone, GINA reported this afternoon.

default placeholder

U.N. lifts Syria death toll to “truly shocking” 60,000

AMMAN/GENEVA,  (Reuters) – More than 60,000 people have died in Syria’s uprising and civil war, the United Nations said today, dramatically raising the death toll in a struggle that shows no sign of ending.

default placeholder

Dancehall’s angry nature hurting acceptance, says Beres

(Jamaica Observer) KINGSTON, Jamaica – Beres Hammond has made a career singing ballads like One Step Ahead and Come Back Home, positive songs that have made him one of reggae’s great hit makers.

default placeholder

Property company takes bigger stake in Jamaica Marriott project

(Jamaica Gleaner) Property company Pan-Jamaican Investment Trust has increased its stake in the proposed US$23 million (J$2b) Courtyard by Marriott hotel project from one-quarter to more than one-third in the wake of the exit of an unnamed fourth investor.

default placeholder

New Zealand bowled out for 45, Philander leads rout

CAPE TOWN, (Reuters) – Vernon Philander’s sensational five-wicket burst helped South Africa skittle out New Zealand for 45 runs inside 20 overs on the opening morning of the first test at Newlands today.

default placeholder

First ever Russian tourist plane arrives in Jamaica

(Jamaica Gleaner) Seven years after Jamaica started courting the eastern Europeans, the first Russian carrier Transaero arrived on the island yesterday.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: