Top Colombian drug lord arrested in Guayaquil; ‘Dangerous’ prisoners transferred from Turi; Narco trafficker runways destroyed; Thieves steal fuel

Feb 3, 2024 | 0 comments

In a joint Ecuadorian-Colombian police operation, Henry Loaiza, alias ‘El Alacrán’, was arrested Thursday in Guayaquil. The arrest, based on a tip from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, is the second of a high-profile Colombian narco-trafficker in a week. Carlos Arturo Landazuri, alias “El Gringo,” leader of the Oliver Sinisterra Brigade and considered Colombia’s “most wanted” man, was arrested January 24 in Ibarra.

According to district Police Commander William Villarroel, Loaiza’s arrest is a “major accomplishment” in Ecuador’s fight against narco traffickers. “He is not just any drug trafficker or gang leader, he is the leader of the Valle del Cauca [Colombia] Northern cartel and has ties to two Mexican cartels. He is responsible for transporting a large percentage of the illegal drugs that pass through our ports.”

The Armed Forces destroyed an airstrip on Puna Island Thursday. They say it was used by “narco planes” to deliver cocaine from Colombia and Peru.

Villarroel said Loaiza had been living in Guayaquil for several months and is believed to have ordered at least five murders of rival gang leaders in Ecuador.

Loaiza had been listed among the ten most wanted criminals in Colombia since 2018, escaping arrest on more than five occasions. In addition to shipping large quantities of cocaine from ports in Colombia and Ecuador, he is believed to have operated a fleet of fast boats between Colombia, Ecuador and Panama as well as several semi-submersible craft.

Colombian police say Loaiza is wanted for the murder of a number of local officials and journalists, as well as rival gang members.

‘Dangerous’ prisoners transferred from Cuenca
In a Friday morning police operation, seven prisoners were transferred from prisons in Cuenca, Machala and Azogues to the maximum security “La Roca” prison in Guayaquil. According to prison officials, the seven were “dangerous gang leaders” that required isolation from other inmates.

In Cuenca, Friday’s operation generated social media rumors of a prison escape at Turi due to the over-flights of four army helicopters and the movement of several armored personnel carriers on nearby roads. “We understand the alarm of residents, but the transfer involved four high-profile convicts from Turi that required a maximum level of military and police support,” said Azuay Province Governor Milton Benítez.

Benítez added that the transfers were part of the government’s plan to isolate prison gang leaders and others considered “extremely dangerous” from other inmates. “For security reasons, the operation was planned and conducted in secrecy.”

Narco trafficker runway destroyed
Ecuador’s Armed Forces destroyed an airstrip on Puna Island believed to be used by “narco planes” to deliver cocaine from Colombia and Peru. It is the third landing site disabled by the military in two weeks, the others in Manabi and Los Rio Provinces.

The military command said the 1,500-meter grass runway was in an unpopulated area of Puno Island in the Gulf of Guayaquil. “The landing field showed evidence of recent use and because it is only miles from the port of Guayaquil, its location was optimal for drug traffickers,” the command said.

The command added that the airstrip was located with assistance of the U.S. technical support which provided drone overflights and ground radar.

Thieves steal gasoline and diesel fuel
According to Petroecuador, thieves stole gasoline and diesel fuel valued at $89 million in 2023. Officials say the thefts occurred on the Esmeraldas-Santo Domingo, Libertad-Pascuales, Libertad- Manta and Pascual-Cuenca pipelines.

In addition to financial losses of the fuel, which amounted to 643,556 barrels, thieves caused “significant” environmental damage by tapping into the pipelines, according to Petroecuador. The cost to repair the pipelines was $9 million, officials say.

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