Ecuador Discovers Drug Submarine Near Colombia Border

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Authorities in Ecuador have discovered a submarine intended to transport drugs to Central and North America, in an indication of the growth of sophisticated transportation methods in one of the region’s most important drug trafficking corridors.

The discovery was made in Limones, Esmeraldas province, in northern Ecuador on October 20 and announced by the country’s Interior Minister Jose Serrano Salgado via Twitter (see below), reported El Comercio.

The submarine was reported by Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon to be capable of carrying up to seven tons of drugs, reported El Tiempo. According to Pinzon, the discovery came as a result of joint operations between the two countries.

Ecuador’s Vice-minister for Internal Security Javier Cordova said that the vessel was discovered by anti-narcotics forces while tracking cocaine as part of “Operation Progress,” reported El Universo. He also announced that one person had been detained as part of the operation, reported El Comercio.

InSight Crime Analysis

Ecuador has a notable recent history of advanced sea craft for drug transportation, with the first discovery of a fully submersible vessel made in the country coming in 2010. Semi-submersibles had previously been discovered throughout the region, with the first found off Colombia’s Caribbean island of Providencia in 1993, and 30 intercepted in the Caribbean between 2006 and April 2012.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Ecuador

The craft used today are capable of transporting multi-ton shipments and, as with this most recent discovery, can travel as far as Mexico. When discovered at sea, they are very often scuttled by their crew, preventing the recovery of the drugs being carried. Despite the advanced technology, manning the vessels remains an extremely dangerous job, and is done by anyone desperate enough for the financial rewards.

The border region between Ecuador and Colombia is a critical drug production and trafficking region, as well as a departure point for drug shipments. Less than a year after the 2010 discovery in Ecuador, Colombian authorities discovered a fully submersible craft in February 2011 on southern Colombia’s Pacific coast, less than 200 miles from Esmeraldas.   

Drug operations in Esmeraldas are traditionally dominated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) 29th Front and organized crime group the Rastrojos. However, with rival Colombian group the Urabeños — who have a history of using submersibles — and Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel increasing their presence in the country, it is unclear who might be responsible for this latest discovery. 

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