Ecuador and Colombia to begin joint military and police operations in the border region
Military and police commanders from Ecuador and Colombia signed an agreement Wednesday to implement a plan to contain drug trafficking and organized crime on their shared border. Colombia and Ecuador share a porous border that stretches some 586 kilometers, where criminal gangs and illegal armed groups engage in smuggling and drug trafficking.
The plan, set to begin in early January, will also target illegal mining near the border as well as arms smuggling.
In a meeting in early December, Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso and Colombian President Gustavo Petro agreed to the broad outline of the plan, both saying that drug cartel activity posed an “increasing threat” to their countries.
The border plan will include a variety of joint operations on a tactical and strategic level and will involve an arrangement of intelligence sharing between the countries. Both countries will supply thousands of military troops and police personnel to carry out the plan.
“The joint efforts are intended to control and eliminate drug trafficking, environmental crimes, smuggling, and other criminal activity,” said General Helder Giraldo, commander of Colombia’s military. He added that, in recent years the border area has become a “no man’s land” that had experienced a sharp rise in crime.
Colombia’s border region is home to large crops of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, drug labs and illegal oil refineries, as well as illegal armed groups with connections to Mexican drug cartels, according to security sources. According to Giraldo, Ecuador has suffered criminal “spillovers” from illegal activity from north of its border. “There is very little coca farming or other drug production activity in Ecuador and it is the responsibility of Colombia to work with our Ecuadorian counterparts to improve security in the region,” he said.
In recent months, Ecuador has launched a number of operations to control organized drug trafficking activity in its port cities. Lasso declared a state of emergency in November that resulted in more than 100 arrests of suspected drug gang members. The country has also signed agreements with the United States to strengthen off-shore drug transport monitoring and drug detection in the ports of Guayaquil, Esmeraldas and Manta.