Police arrested a leader of the hemisphere's most powerful criminal syndicate, the Sinaloa Cartel, who ran an armed cell based in southern Ecuador, authorities said Wednesday. The government did not reveal the leader's name, but an AFP report says the group is run by Colombians.
The two Colombian bosses believed to command the armed cells are Ruben Castro Gomez, alias "El Gordo," who allegedly directs operations from the cities of Guayaquil and Cariamanga in Ecuador, and William Samboni Macias, alias "Calilla," who is reportedly based in Ayabaca, Peru.
The Sinaloa Cartel is thought to have two armed cells of up to 60 soldiers on Ecuador's southern border, with one faction dedicated to buying product and the other in charge of shipping cocaine from Peru to Ecuador. The cells have been active in the region since the late 1990s.
According to El Comercio, police have detected four principal corridors used by the Sinaloa Cartel in Ecuador. The first is from the Colombian border town of Tulcan towards Quito. The second exit and entry point for narcotics is the western port city of Esmeraldas; to the east, the province of Sucumbios, which has the advantage of bordering both Colombia and Peru. For product entering southwards from Peru, the most frequently used corridor runs from Loja to Guayas, near Guayaquil, where cocaine is then transported overseas.
Unlike its Andean neighbors, Ecuador is not a major producer of coca, although the country is increasingly being used as a transit hub for cocaine exportations. In 2009, police seized a record 63 tons of cocaine, although estimates for 2010 say that number is down to just 17.7 tons. This could possibly indicate that operators like the Sinaloa Cartel are using more clandestine methods, including submarines and semi-submersible crafts.