Ecuador’s Banana Industry Is Used by Drug Traffickers for Shipping

With an estimated 6.5 million metric tons of banana exports annually, the South American nation leads the globe in banana exports. The two countries that border it, Peru and Colombia, manufacture the most cocaine worldwide. Banana-filled containers are the ideal means of transportation for drug traffickers to smuggle their goods. Since then, drug trafficking has spread severe violence throughout this otherwise calm country. Murders, shootings, kidnappings, and extortions are becoming commonplace occurrences. This is particularly evident in Guayaquil, a Pacific port city and hub for banana shipping. On August 9, Fernando Villavicencio, a presidential contender well-known for his tough stance against organized crime, was fatally murdered, shocking the nation.


Drug smugglers from Mexico, Colombia, and the Balkans in Europe have established operations in Ecuador in addition to being adjacent to the cocaine producing region. The country’s usage of the US dollar, shoddy institutions and regulations, and the readiness of criminal organizations like Los Choneros to operate are the reasons behind this. In 2021, a global record 2,304 metric tons of cocaine were manufactured, primarily in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. According to a United Nations report, that year, Ecuador supplied almost a third of the cocaine captured by authorities in Western and Central Europe—two times the quantity recorded in 2018. Over the past month, there have been an increasing number of large narcotics seizures. After examining crates containing bananas coming from Ecuador, European inspectors conducted unprecedented seizures.


On August 25, authorities revealed the largest cocaine haul in Spain to date: 9.5 metric tons of cocaine stashed in a refrigerated container among Ecuadorian banana cartons. Last month, Dutch authorities also made the largest-ever cocaine seizure in their nation—nearly 8 metric tons—in a crate containing bananas from Ecuador. This year, authorities in Greece and Italy also reported finding cocaine concealed in bananas from Ecuador. Drug traffickers may use, knowingly or unknowingly, banana producers, exporters, shipping firms, port operators, private security firms, customs officers, agriculture authorities, police, and purchasers. Some traffickers have set up fictitious businesses to mimic legitimate exporters of bananas. Plantations and other legitimate companies have been taken over by others.

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