By “El Huaso” for Borderland Beat

The National Police force of Ecuador seized a massive cocaine shipment weighing 8.8 tons in a container of bananas at the port of Guayaquil, Ecuador. The seizure was announced as the largest bust far this year.

The shipment was destined for Belgium, which is characterized as the “the primary entry point for cocaine smuggled into Europe” according to the US State Department in 2020. The report identifies the Port of Antwerp as the main doorway into Europe, where criminal groups smuggle product from Latin America on container ships. In 2022, 110 tons of cocaine were seized at the Port of Antwerp, reported Belgian authorities.

Indeed, Kristian Vanderwaeren, Belgian customs official stated that 40% of the cocaine seized in Europe is found in Belgium.

Video: CmdtPoliciaEc Twitter

This seizure occurs while cocaine production in Latin America is at it’s highest point ever, according to InSight Crime co-director Jeremy McDermott in a recent podcast.

Ecuador in particular is emerging as a key player in the cocaine market. In 2022, 201 tons of cocaine were seized in Ecuador, a 44% increase from 2021. 

According to an article by France24, Ecuador does not actually produce coca, the crop used to make cocaine, but has emerged as a major drug player because of it’s shared borders with Peru and Colombia, two major cocaine producing nations. Both of these nations saw increases in the production and siezures of cocaine last year.

Brookings Institution expert Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that both the CJNG and Sinaloa Cartel are involved in Ecuador, forging alliances with local gangs to facilitate the transportation of cocaine through the country on the way to ocean routes.

Sources: @CmdtPoliciaEc Twitter, State Department Drug Report – INCSR 2020, Milenio, France24, Brookings – Vanda Felbab-Brown, Americas Quarterly Podcast,