Ecuadorian banana shipments are the main fronts for cocaine trafficking destined for Turkey. Turkish territory acts as a bridge to bring the drug to Russia and the Persian Gulf.
On July 26, 2022, the National Police thwarted the shipment of 158 kilos of cocaine to Europe from Guayaquil. The drug was camouflaged in banana boxes that were inside a container bound for European ports.
A month earlier, on June 23 , agents from the Ports and Airports Unit and trained police dogs found another 845,000 grams of cocaine in banana boxes . The shipment was going to Turkey .
These cases are not isolated, since according to the United Nations Organization (UN), Ecuador is the third country in the world in which more cocaine is seized .
In addition, Guayaquil is one of the three ports in South America with the greatest presence in the illegal economy of drug trafficking.
If the statistics are observed by region, Ecuador leaves 14% of cocaine shipments to Asia, and it is the third country with the most drugs trafficked to Europe.
And Turkey emerges as the drug connection point between Asia and Europe. As reported by lnsightCrime , an organization dedicated to investigating security and organized crime issues, since 2017 Turkish authorities have seized record amounts of cocaine from South America.
The InsightCrime portal recently published two investigations to explain why Turkey has gained relevance in the transit of cocaine from South America.
First, the research points to a propitious political scenario in that country. Until 2013, Turkey had achieved one of the best performances in the fight against drugs, generating an effective alliance with the United States.
But, that year there was a corruption scandal involving 52 members of the ruling Justice and Development Party. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expelled the police chiefs who discovered the event.
Some 350 officers were fired, including the heads of the organized crime unit and the anti-smuggling and financial crime subunits. ” This created an unprecedented opportunity for drug traffickers “, relates the investigation.
Mahmut Cengiz, head of the anti-narcotics division from 2011 to 2015, explains that the message to the newly appointed officers was that if the Erdoğan government and regime were obeyed, they would turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.
Another reason is that Turkey is located between Europe and the Middle East, an ideal position to traffic drugs to the two regions.
“We can estimate that 60 or 70% of the traffic (which passes from Turkey) goes to the Middle East and 30% to Europe,” Cengiz tells the digital portal.
Ports, main concern
The exit of cocaine from Guayaquil to international markets, such as Turkey, is one of the main concerns of the Ecuadorian Police.
Fausto Íñiguez, director of Antinarcotics, recalls that in Guayaquil there are eight terminals, and only one has scanners to check containers .
The lack of scanning tools means that of 100% of the containers, only between 3% and 4% are registered by the authorities . The containers to be checked are chosen through police intelligence information.
In 2022, the drug found in export shipments has grown more than 100%. And 70% of the contaminated shipments correspond to bananas, harming this export sector.
For this reason, on July 22, the Government created the Technical Table for Trade Security, which will be in charge of generating public policy to reduce this phenomenon.