Despite the fact that it is surrounded by drug-producing countries, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says that Ecuador remains “almost entirely free of illicit crop production.” UNODC also reports that “strong law enforcement efforts” have greatly reduced the shipments of drugs on the country’s highways.
Positioned between drug-producing Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, Ecuador has long been considered a “transit corridor” for drugs but UNDOC says that most of that transit today occurs off shore.
“In Ecuador, we are seeing almost no cultivation of illicit crops. The government has an aggressive program to eradicate crops and this program appears to be effective,” says Lorenzo Vallejos, UNODC coordinator.
Vallejos adds that there appears to be limited activity by Colombian and Mexican drug cartels within Ecuador. “We have seen some presence of these groups on the coast in Manta and Guayaquil, as well along the Colombian border in the jungle area, but it has been largely contained.”
According to Vallejos, a growing challenge for Ecuador will be controlling Pacific drug transport lanes. “This activity is increasing due to the demand in North America and this will pose challenges for the country in the future. We believe new alliance with the U.S., which is providing surveillance flights, will help in this regard.”
A growing concern is cultivation of heroin-producing poppies, a growing problem in Colombia, but UNDOC says that there is little evidence of the practice in Ecuador. “Those that were found in 2018 were growing in the wild,” they say.
The UN drug office also praised Ecuador for its off-shore drug seizures. The country ranks fourth in the world in maritime seizures, behind Morocco, the Netherlands and Colombia.
In 2019, Ecuador seized about 145.6 tons of drugs, including 90.1 tons of cocaine, according to the UNODC.