Last week’s deadly attack on Ecuadorian marines patrolling the Colombian border prompted an emergency Saturday meeting of the Binational Border Commission at the Tulcán military base.
Three marines died as a result of a roadside bomb police say was planted by drug traffickers. Since January, there have been three other bombings and several firefights with former FARC guerrillas that officials say have joined drug gangs and cartels.
Colombia committed 2,000 additional troops to the border north of Esmeraldas Province, on Ecuador’s Pacific coast. Ecuador plans to add an undisclosed number of troops to the 12,000 already positioned south of the border.
In addition to increasing the military presence on both sides of the border, the commission said it is working to improve communications between law enforcement and military commands in the area. “We have established new channels for sharing information between the two sides but the recent attacks tell us we need to do more,” said Felipe Vega de la Cuadra, Ecuador’s deputy minister of defense. “Controlling the activity of drug producers and traffickers in the region is a joint responsibility between Ecuador and Colombia and we have to work together to solve the problem.”
According to Interior Minister César Navas, an immediate concern is providing security in several cantons in Esmeraldas Province. “The residents have been frightened by the recent violence and many of them have moved out,” he says. “We need to stabilize the situation, arrest and drive out those responsible for the attacks. This is our commitment to the people who live near the border.”
Anibal Fernandez, Colombia deputy defense minister, said that Ecuador and Colombia have an “excellent relationship” in efforts to defeat drug traffickers. “We are strengthening links between integrate units from both sides of the border and working jointly on training exercises in different areas,” he said.
In addition to strengthening border security, officials of the two countries also discussed ways to stop smuggling into Ecuador.