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

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...