U.S. to provide assistance and equipment to help Ecuador combat illegal drug air traffic
In an agreement signed Wednesday, the United States will provide equipment, training and funding to assist the Ecuadorian Air Force track and intercept aircraft suspected of transporting illegal drugs.
Although the Foreign Ministry has not released an official estimate, U.S. sources believe that as much as 25% of illegal drugs arrive in Ecuador by air.
The United Nations 2022 World Drug Report said that “lack of monitoring equipment and nonfunctioning monitoring equipment” have made it easy for aircraft to make clandestine landings near Ecuador’s coast to deliver drugs. The report added that almost all drug air deliveries arrive from Colombia and are destinated for Ecuadorian ports.
The UN reports that after Colombia and the U.S., Ecuador was the country with the most illegal drug seizures in 2022.
According to Foreign Minister Gustavo Manrique, the agreement will provide a broad range of assistance, including financial help. “The agreement will provide equipment to enhance operational capacity, maintenance, training, as well as logistical, command, control and communications support,” he said.
In addition, the U.S. will provide services to Ecuadorian law enforcement agencies and the judicial system.
Following an agreement signing ceremony with U.S. Ambassador Michael Fitzpatrick, Manrique said that Ecuador will adhere to all International Civil Aviation Organization aircraft interception guidelines. “We will not damage, destroy or disable civilian aircraft,” he said. “We will, however, perform warning maneuvers to force suspicious aircraft to landing sites.”