Ecuador ranks third in international cocaine seizures, trailing only Colombia and the U.S.

Jul 12, 2022 | 8 comments

According to a United Nations report on global drug trafficking, Ecuador ranks third in the world in the amount of cocaine confiscated by law enforcement agencies. The report also shows that the majority of the seizures are made at the port of Guayaquil.

Police pose with a recent seizure of cocaine at the port of Guayaquil.

The UN Office on Drugs says that worldwide, 41 percent of cocaine is seized in Colombia, followed by 11 percent in the U.S. and 6.5 percent in Ecuador. The report said other drugs are also shipped from Ecuador, including illegal opioids, but did not provide data on seizures.

“Although Ecuador is not a drug production and cultivation center, the country has become a hub for shipments to North America, Europe and Africa,” the UN report said. “Based on the amount of seizures and other information, drug shipments from the country have grown rapidly in recently years, especially during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost all the cocaine captured in Ecuador is produced in Colombia.”

The report adds: “The increased shipments are a result of more efficient controls at Colombian ports, shifting transit points south to Ecuador, where detection efforts are less sophisticated.”

In addition to Guayaquil, large cocaine seizures have also been made at ports in Manta, Machala and Esmeraldas, the UN said.

According to Fausto Incñiguez, chief of Ecuador’s of National Anti-Narcotics Police, drug shipments from the country have shown “significant” increases in 2019, 2020 and 2021. “We captured 93 tons of cocaine during this period and the trend appears to be going up. In the first half of 2022, we have seized 53 million tons, cocaine as well as other drugs.”

Incñiguez acknowledged that the pandemic created “unique” surveillance problems for customs and law enforcement personnel at Ecuador’s ports. “Most of drugs go out in legal shipping containers, packed with other products, making detection difficult,” he said.

He added that new drug scanning equipment provided by the U.S. should increase the amount of drugs confiscated. “Ultimately, this will reduce the shipments because of the financial losses for traffickers.”

The UN report also indicated that cocaine use among Ecuadorians was increasing, concluding that it ranks third behind Brazil and Uruguay in per capita consumption among South American countries.

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