For the second time in three days, Ecuadorian soldiers came under gunfire from suspected drug traffickers in Esmeraldas Province, on the Colombian border. Ecuador’s military command claims that the aggressors are former FARC guerrillas who now work for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.
The command said that two special forces soldiers were injured in Monday’s exchange. The soldiers have been transferred to a Quito military hospital where they are being treated for non-life threatening wounds.
Since the bombing of a police headquarters in San Lorenzo on January 26, Ecuador has assigned an additional 5,000 military and police personnel to the border area and have stepped up patrols in an area said to be transport point for drug shipments heading to Central and North America.
In a Satarday engagement, the army captured one of those suspected of firing on troops. He was taken to San Lorenzo where he is being interrogated.
“Colombian criminal groups, along with some local peasants, have established a stronghold on both sides of the border and we are destroying it,” said Ecuador Defense Minister Patricio Zambrano. “We are working with Colombian forces in this effort and we expect a fight.”
Zambrano said that several coca plantations and cocaine processing facilities are located just north of the border and that the owners and transporters frequently enter Ecuador to buy supplies in San Lorenzo and El Pan and to arrange shipments. “We are cutting off this activity and that is why we face resistance,” Zambrano said.
He added that there is no coca production or processing facilities in Ecuador. “We are devoting major resources to the effort keep this activity out but the high level of activity in Colombia makes it difficult,” he said. “We can expect more conflict.”