Will Columbian Cocaine Destroy Ecuador Too?
Crime skyrockets and justice begins to break down in another South American nation.
Like a balloon squeezed at one end, the locus of the drug war is diffusing into other parts of Latin America, as Mexico and Columbia continue to turn communities into killing fields. The cost of business for narcotraficantes—paid for in executions and arrests and torture and kidnapping—is beginning to be too high in those countries. As we’ve demonstrated, Mexican drug traffickers have co-opted smaller gangs in Guatemala, and then El Salvador. Farther south, pressure on Columbia has lately squeezed a chunk of the drug trade into Ecuador, as Chris Kraul of the LA Times reported from Quito. Police veterans in the capital city say that drugs are flooding the streets, and that judges are being threatened or paid off by incoming drug gangs. “Many of my colleagues are extremely discouraged and worried. But we’re fighting on,” one officer told Kraul. “We’re doing it for our children.”
Crime in Ecuador rose 15-50% in 2010, compared to 2009, and murders are up, too. Officials are estimating that as many as 200 tons of cocaine are now being trans-shipped through Ecuador. That’s about one-fourth of all the cocaine produced in Colombia and Peru combined. Drug mules get busted at the Quito international airport with depressing regularity, and cocaine paste floods in from Colombia as the government there continues to bust jungle labs. The world took brief note a year ago when a 70-foot submarine, capable of carrying 7 tons of cocaine, turned up in Ecuadorian waters. But nobody outside the country is notified when another judge lets a suspect go. As Kraul reports, a judge recently ordered that $36 million in assets be handed over to the wife of a man currently in a Miami jail on federal drug-trafficking charges. “We spent three years building a case,” said the Quito cop. “These things happen and no one complains or says anything. They’re too afraid.”