Following a meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque on Sunday, President Lenín Moreno warned that armed groups are forming near Ecuador’s northern border with Colombia. He claimed the groups are associated with the FARC dissidents called the Óliver Sinisterra Front.
“We are following the intelligence about recent developments, both our own and that of Colombian authorities, and understand that these groups intend to expand operations in Esmeraldas Province in conjunction with Mexican drug cartels,” Moreno said. “We have been fighting Óliver Sinisterra for years and have seen the deadly result of their work.
In 2018, the Sinisterra Front kidnapped and murdered three journalists from the Quito El Comercio newspaper, also admitting to the bombing of a police headquarters north of the city of Esmeraldas. A Colombian military operation resulted in the death of Sinisterra leader, Walter Patricio Arizala, alias Guacho, in December although he was quickly replaced.
Sinisterra has operated in the mangrove swamps of northern Esmeraldas for years, using the area to move cocaine shipments from jungle labs in southern Colombia to the Pacific Ocean. The group is said to control the governments of a number of towns and cities in the region, in both Colombia and Ecuador.
Moreno said his government is moving military personnel to Esmeraldas Province but said the fight would continue into the next presidential administration. “We will hand off this threat to the next government, sharing our intelligence with them. The huge appetite for drugs in North America makes this effort one that will continue for years.”
Moreno was at the Colombian border with Duque to review progress on a highway and new bridge over the Rio Mataje connecting Ecuador and Colombia. He said work on the project will be complete in June.