President Lenin Moreno meets with his Colombia counterpart Juan Manuel Santos today and will deliver a stern message: Get Colombia’s drug production and trafficking problem under control.
Although the presidents, along with most of their cabinets, will discuss other bilateral issues in the meeting the Colombia city of Pereira, both sides agree that the rapidly expanding illegal drug trade in Colombia is beginning to affect Ecuador.
The severity of the problem was highlighted two weekends ago when a powerful car bomb destroyed part of a police station in the Ecuador border town of San Lorenzo. Although there were no serious injuries, the blast also damaged or destroyed 30 nearby homes.
On the same day as the San Lorenzo bombing, drug-related bombings in Colombia killed seven.
According to Ecuador’s foreign ministry, Moreno will ask Santos to send more troops to Colombia’s southern Pacific coast region that borders Ecuador. He will also ask for more cooperation between Colombian and Ecuadorian troops patrolling the area.
An Ecuadorian army officer who asked not be identified told El Comercio in Quito that drug production and processing is booming in Colombia, just north of the Ecuadorian border. “By helicopter, you can see the coca fields along the border, and there are more of them every time we fly over,” he said. “There are also poppy fields and processing labs. The problem is getting out of control and even though it is a Colombian problem, it is affecting the north coast of Ecuador.”
He added: “Everyone worries is that we are returning to the days of Pablo Escobar and that the drug cartels will take over much of Colombia. Ecuador has a strong interest in making sure this does not happen.”
The meeting between Ecuador and Colombia follows a similar meeting between Colombia and Panama. Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela criticized Colombia last month for not doing more to control illegal drugs. Panama has seen a sharp spike in murders in recent months and claims that it is the result of drug traffic heading north from Colombia.