Country Listing

Ecuador Table of Contents


Narcotics Control

Cultivation of, and trafficking in, drugs was less of a problem in Ecuador than in neighboring countries. Coca cultivation, which began in 1984, had been essentially eliminated by late 1987 as a result of vigorous government action. With the assistance of the United States, which lent two helicopters, the Ecuadorian police detected and uprooted plantings of the crop, grown mostly along the border with Colombia. The police also interdicted shipments of cocaine and other coca products across Ecuador's territory to markets and processing centers elsewhere and suppressed cocaine refining laboratories within its borders.

In early 1989, however, drug traffickers reportedly moved into the country from Colombia and Bolivia because of Ecuador's easier access to the United States market. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration estimated that thirty to fifty tons a year of Colombian cocaine were being shipped through Ecuador destined for the United States, Europe, and Asia. Cocaine had been found in container shipments of Ecuadorian frozen orange concentrate and chocolates and in air deliveries of fresh flowers. Analysts also believed that the Colombian Medellín Cartel had purchased Ecuadorian companies. Few big drug seizures had been made because of the limited resources of local authorities, although coca laboratories continued to be raided and destroyed.

In October 1988, assailants assumed to have been drug dealers murdered a superior court judge in Quito who had been working on a number of drug trafficking cases. Other judges had received death threats. Despite the fact that Ecuador has bank secrecy laws, United States officials believed that the weakness of the sucre limited Ecuador's potential to become a major money-laundering center.

In an effort to assist Ecuadorian drug-control efforts, the United States supplied a number of powerboats for patrolling rivers in the north and islands near the port of Guayaquil and supplied training by the United States Navy. It also furnished sniffer dogs to detect drugs in export shipments and baggage. In FY 1990 President George Bush requested from Congress US$1.4 million in drug-control assistance for Ecuador.

Data as of 1989