Some 10,000 Ecuadorian soldiers and police are currently stationed on the border with Colombia in the wake of the deterioration in security since last January, Admiral John Merlo, commander of the single command of operations in that area, told Efe on Monday.
“They are infantry soldiers with mechanized vehicles for the transport of personnel and also police officers”, described the high command over the military deployment with which Ecuador tries to confront drug trafficking gangs that in the last three months have turned the north of the province of Esmeraldas, in an unusual battlefield.
Merlo, who took office last December, added that this military and police presence has “reduced the intensity” of the tension and activities of the criminal gangs in recent days.
He was referring to the bomb attacks against the armed forces, which since January have left four soldiers dead and some thirty wounded, although he has not avoided the kidnapping of a couple last week in the province of Esmeraldas.
The activities of these bands, he said, are “directly related to coca”, have to do with “harvest and production”, and assessed that the attacks that the drug gangs have launched are due to “being closed the channels “of step.
Ecuador attributes the wave of violence to a FARC dissident allegedly linked to drug trafficking and identified by the alias of “Guacho.”
It is believed that it is located in southern Colombia and that it operates in cross-border operations, although it would have support from the Ecuadorian side of the border judging by the arrests made in the last operations.
According to different accounts, the detainees allegedly linked to this gang would be around half a hundred, and their performance served the organization as logistic support for the entry of chemical precursors in Colombia and the exit of that country from the cocaine already processed for consumption.
On criticism from various media that the Armed Forces are not technologically prepared to face an invisible enemy, Admiral Merlo said that “there is no border that is not porous” and that drug traffickers will always find new ways to smuggle. , with “tunnels or whatever”.
And he assured that operations in the area include tactical aerial support with reconnaissance aircraft and helicopters.
He highlighted in that sense the recent “blows” that have been given to gangs of criminals, a product indicated “of the coordinated work with the Colombian Armed Forces”.
“The coordinated work is aimed at having more information and intelligence, which arrives in Ecuador and is used for our operations,” he said about a joint effort that Ecuador had been demanding insistently since January, but which seems to have really consolidated in the last month.
In addition, the president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, has complained on several occasions that the Ecuadorian Armed Forces have suffered a notorious deterioration in recent years.
“The dismantling of our Armed Forces and the Police, the decline in morals, in ethics, but above all the extreme permissibility has allowed this to happen,” he said.
He also regretted that in recent years the State security forces have not been provided with the weapons necessary to guarantee security, and mentioned the purchase of obsolete helicopters and radars that did not work.
“We are a country that requires as never before a unity to be able to fight an invisible enemy, but we can make it visible if we have the technology and knowledge that the ambassador friends will surely provide from the countries they represent” , said on Tuesday after a meeting with the ambassadors of Spain, France, China, United States and United Kingdom, countries to which he requested their cooperation. (I)