ECUADOR: THREAT OF COLUMBIAN DRUG SPILLOVER

Created: 5/11/2000

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Intelligence Report

DCI Crime and0

Ecuador: Threat of Colombian Drug Spillover

Drug traffickers, frequently with the aid of Colombian guerrillas, appear to be increasing operations in northern Ecuador in response to expanding coca cultivation In southern Colombia as well as improved counterdrug efforts in

Colombia.traffickers have

increased transshipmentsuaaor,he north, and may be establishing cocaine laboratories in several of the country's northern provinces. Colombian guerrillas reportedly assist in the transport of precursor chemicals and other drug-related supplies from northern Ecuador to cocaine laboratories in southern Colombia, as well as provide security to narcotics operations in the area.F)

Traffickers probably will continue to increase drug transshipments through northern Ecuador in the near term as they seek to support Colombia's growing drug industry. Moreover, the building pressure against narcotics activity in southern Colombia could push traffickers to move more cocaine production, and possibly coca cultivation, across the border into Ecuador despite Quito's ongoing coca eradication efforts. Colombian insurgents likely will continue to support drug activity in northern Ecuador, but may not back possible trafficker attempts to increase drug production in the area if the insurgents perceive the supply routes supporting their guerrilla activities to be at risk from retaliation by Ecuadorian

Increased Trafficking Through Ecuador!

Regional trafficking organizations arc increasing their drug transshipments through

Ecuador

Although many drug traffickers in the past have conducted transshipment operauons through Fxuadonan air and maritime routes,]-

I /the pace and volume of such activity are rising, especially on the part of Colombian trafficking groups.

The United States Navy in mid-February seizedetric tons of cocaine, one of the largest maritime drug seizures recorded in South America,ishing boat off the coast of Ecuador, according to press reports.

The substantial rise in coca cultivation and cocaine production in southern Colombia is the main factor driving the increase in transshipments through Ecuador. Coca cultivation in the department of Putamayo increasedercent7nd Putamayo'separtments share of the Colombian coca crop grew to

ercent inare also moving more cocaine through Ecuador.

destined for transport along eastern Pacific smuggling routes, to avoid increased interdiction efforts off Colombia's northern

Colombian Spillover Into Northern Ecuador jfiff'

The increase in drug trafficking through Ecuador has been most pronounced through

the country's northern frontier with Colombia, specifically the provinces of

Sucumbios, Carchi, unbabura. and Esmcraldas. /

^Colombian-based traffickers also reportedly move growing amounts of

refined cocaine hydrochloride south through Sucumbios, Carchi, and Esmcraldas Provinces to various Ecuadorian seaports and airports for international shipment^? J

Meanwhile, Colombian drug traffickers may be establishing cocaine laboratories and coca plant nurseries in Ecuador's Sucumbios and Esmeraldas Provinces, possibly to evade Colombian Government interdiction efforts and to reduce the cost of transporting chemicals and other refining equipment. ]

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local press reports indicate that drug traffickers run

cocaine laboratories in the jungles of Esmcraldas Province, near some of Ecuador's

port cities.

Ecuadorian tanners commonly cultivate coca plants in Sucumbios Province and then transport the plants across the border into Colombia.

Coca Cultivation Spillover

Ecuador remains especially vulnerable to Colombian spillover hecauv of the region's favorable growing conditions.

Cocaery adaptable plant capable of survivalide variety of soils.

Moreover, growing conditions in northern Ecuador are comparable to conditions in neighboring Colombia, including fertile soils, ample drainage, rolling to steep hillsides, and sufficient

Colombian Guerrillas Facilitate Border Drug Trade

Colombian guerrillas capitalize cm the lucrative border drug industry byof precursor chemicals to and from Colombian-based narcoticsproviding armed security and logistical support to drug-related activityProvince.Armed Forces of

Colombia (FARC) guerrillas can easily traverse the border and penetratecommunities, in part because of bilateral agreements betweenEcuador allowing unrestricted passage across the border in some ' ' '

Drug traffickers continue to engage in low-level coca cultivation in northern, ftaadorj

Their ongoing activity in northern

Ecuadot is likely an outgrowth of their involvement in southern Colombia's druj industry, which reportedly provides an important source of funding for the guerrilla group's insurgent activity^

FARC guerrillas reportedly protect cocaine laboratories and widely scatteredin northern Ecuador, as well as tax tbe cross-border movement ofworking on Colombian coca plantations/

/Noneineiess. Loiomman

insurgent groups may not back higher levels of coca cultivation in the area because they might want to avoid interference from Ecuadorian authorities along their re-jupply routes supporting insurgent activity across the border in Colombia.|

/In addition.

indicate tnat Ecuadorian soiflierg_uuvc utscovcreci several coca items-hear FARC base camps in Sucumbios Province

Challenge* to Controlling Border^

Senior Ecuadorian officials, increasingly alarmed by the threat ofhave announced plans to strengthen the country's northern border withdeployment of military troops,

Quiio is reportedly turning to the United States for increased aid to counter the spillover threat. For example, press reports indicate that the Ecuadorian Army General Juan Ramon Jimenez traveled to Washington in February to seek approvalillion inbe included in the US aid package tofight drug trafficking. |

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Some military and civilian officials may be reluctant to improve counterdrug measures in the northern region because they are afraid of provoking Colombian guerrillas to retaliate against local residents or against Ecuador's valuable oil industry. which accounts forercent of the country's national income,

The large number of secondary roads, trails, and connecling rivers in

Ecuador limits poiice abilit

combat drug trafficking.

J

Outlook (U)

Drug transshipments will continue to increase through northern Ecuador as traffickers work to support the surge in coca cultivation and cocaine production in southern Colombia. The ongoing interdiction efforts by antidrug authorities in traditional smuggling routes out of Colombia also will increase transshipments through the area as traffickers search for alternative routes to smuggle finished cocaine to international markets J

Colombian guerrillas will continue to provide essential logistical support to drug trafficking operations in northern Ecuador. However, they could lessen their support if it puts their more important supply routes supponing guerrilla activity in Colombia at the risk of retaliation from Ecuadorian antidrug forces.

For the moment. Quito's counterdrug efforts are tempering expansion of coca cultivation and drug production in northern Ecuador, but are facing difficulty in countering the region's increasing drug transshipments because of resource shortfalls.

Implications for the United States

The threat of Colombian spillover has focused greater attention by the Andean governments on the United States' motives and commitments to the region, particularly in light of recent moves by Washington to substantially increase counterdrug aid to Bogota. Quito, like other area governments concerned with regional spillover, could criticize the US if new counterdrug measures in southern Colombia increase drug and insurgent activity in northern Ecuador.)

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