Los Ríos cocaine seizure is the largest in Ecuador history and possibly the world’s

Jan 24, 2024 | 0 comments

Police display part of the cocaine seized Sunday and Monday during a raid in Los Ríos Province.

Sunday’s massive cocaine bust on a farm in Minces, Los Ríos Province, was stunning even for National Police. The raid, which did not conclude until early Tuesday, netted 22 tons of packaged cocaine worth $1.3 billion and possibly more, depending on its final market.

“The amount that we confiscated is so large it will have a disruptive impact on narco trafficking in Ecuador,” said National Police Commander César Zapata. “Certainly, it was a large percentage of the cocaine cartels planned to transport out of Ecuador this year.”

He added: “We were impressed with the amount we found in the first few hours of the search but then we kept finding more and more.”

Believing they had located all of the cocaine, the military command, which participated in the seizure, issued a statement Sunday afternoon reporting that three tons of cocaine had been seized, but soldiers soon discovered underground tunnels leading to more, resulting in the final count of 22 tons. Zapata called the underground storage area a “warehouse.”

A spokesman for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the bust could be the largest in history. “There have been two cocaine seizures in the U.S. that approached this amount and we are awaiting for a final count from Ecuadorian police.”

The raid, which followed a six-month investigation, also confiscated dozens of firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and explosives.

Police and soldiers found the farm largely deserted when they entered the property. They arrested a 30-year-old man they described as an employee. “We have identified the owner of the property, and a search is underway to find him,” Zapata said. “He owns several large tracts of land in Los Ríos and two other provinces, including a farm in Manabi Province where a landing strip was recently discovered.”

Zapata described the cocaine as being “neatly packaged, with six different logo seals attached.” He said an investigation of the logos is underway, believing they indicate the intended destination of the one-kilo packages.

Juan Padilla, a former UN drug office advisor, agreed with Zapata that the size of the seizure is a blow to drug traffickers. “This is so large it will have an effect on the market, at least temporarily,” he said. “I would also expect to see a wave of violence as the traffickers look for scapegoats for the loss. There could be a bloodbath.”

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