Ecuador is to toughen up penalties for drug possession after President Rafael Correa launched a broadside against "impunity" for microtraffickers "poisoning the population," rowing back on previous moves to liberalize the country's drug policy and further confusing an already muddled system. 

Ecuador's National Council for Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances (Consep) has announced a new scale to use to differentiate between drug users, microtraffickers and large scale traffickers when handing down prison sentences, reported El Universo.

The four level system saw changes for possession of all commonly used drugs, but the most significant were for heroin and cocaine; whereas previously possession of anything up to one gram of heroin and 50 grams of cocaine was considered "minimum," and essentially decriminalized, now such quantities are rated as "high" -- just one step below "large scale," and maximum prison sentences.

The changes come in the wake of speeches by President Correa denouncing the scourge of microtrafficking. Correa lamented that the light sentences for possession of small amounts under the previous scale amounted to virtual impunity for microtraffickers, especially as preventative detention does not apply to crimes with less than one year sentences, and so small-scale drug dealers were able to skip their trial hearings and continue to ply their trade.

"We're going to rectify this [law] and show zero tolerance for drugs," Correa told the press

Correa also called for control of the Consep to pass directly to the president's office, reported El Universo.

15-09-10-Ecuador-Drugsscale

 

InSight Crime Analysis

While there are indications that Ecuador's importance as a drug transit point has helped spur its domestic market, Correa's proposal appears less of an appropriate response to this challenge and more political bluster that will add to the nation's already confused drug policy. 

Ecuador is part of a group of Latin American countries which have taken steps towards treating drug abuse as a health problem and not a criminal issue. Under Correa, drug use has been decriminalized and the scale of possession was introduced in order to punish traffickers while sparing users. However, even before the current modifications, judges frequently chose to continue punishing users, a report (pdf) by the Research Consortium on Drugs and the Law found. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Drug Policy

In addition, less than a year ago Ecuador released 500 "drug mules" or low-level traffickers in a move aimed to alleviate prison crowding while also recognizing the exploitation suffered by those working the lowest ends of the drug trade.  

Correa's proposal is a complete reversal of these progressive policies. While continuing to lock up low-level couriers, the new scale represents a de facto re-criminalization of drug use. Additionally, insisting on preventative detention for lower levels of drug possession will likely have a major negative impact on Ecuador's already crowded prisons

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...