2009 Country Reports on Terrorism - Ecuador
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||5 August 2010|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism - Ecuador, 5 August 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c63b6492d.html [accessed 25 December 2014]|
Ecuador's greatest counterterrorism and security challenge remained the presence of Colombian narcotics, criminal, and terrorist groups in the extremely difficult terrain along the porous 450-mile border with Colombia. The lack of adequate employment opportunities for Ecuadorians and Colombian refugees also made the area vulnerable to narco-terrorist influence and created a contraband economy. To evade Colombian military operations, these groups, principally the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), regularly used Ecuadorian territory for recuperation, medical aid, weapons and explosives procurement, and coca processing. These activities involved Ecuadorian and Colombian refugees in northern Ecuador in direct or indirect ways. Some Ecuadorian officials along the border believed that the FARC's economic impact allowed it to buy silence and compliance among resident communities in the border area.
Ecuador responded to this threat, although it still faced resource constraints and limited capabilities. The Correa Administration, while still maintaining that the Colombian conflict was mainly Colombia's problem, stated that it opposed armed encroachments across its borders. Tensions between Ecuador and Colombia rose following the March 2008 Colombian bombing of a FARC camp in Ecuador, which killed the FARC's number two in command, Raul Reyes, plus 24 Colombians and one Ecuadorian associated with the FARC. However, in September, the two countries embarked on a rapprochement and, in November, assigned charges d'affaires. Although Ecuador-Colombia security mechanisms have been reactivated, the reestablishment of full diplomatic ties would be important to making further progress in disrupting and dismantling FARC-associated narcotics traffickers' operations in the region.
Ecuador's security forces continued their operations against FARC training and logistical resupply camps along the northern border. The Ecuadorian military continued to increase the number of troops in the north. The Ecuadorian government also increased its emphasis on protection of national sovereignty against illegal armed incursions and improved efforts to counter the perception that Ecuador was not shouldering its burden in fighting drug traffickers along its northern border.
While Ecuadorian security forces increased their presence, the pace of their operations remained roughly the same. The Ecuadorian military reported that it conducted four counternarcotics operations at the brigade level, 219 battalion-level operations, and 159 patrols that led to the destruction of nine cocaine laboratories, 253 FARC base camps, houses and resupply facilities; the eradication of one hectare of coca; and the confiscation of weapons, communications equipment, and other support equipment.
The Ecuadorian military's operations netted information on FARC activities and infrastructure both inside and outside of Ecuador, and resulted in the detention of more than 75 narcotics traffickers, the killing of three FARC members, and the wounding of seven others during the year. However, insufficient resources, corruption among members of the military and police, the challenging border region terrain, and a tense bilateral relationship with Colombia since the March 2008 raid made it difficult to thwart cross-border incursions.
Domestic terrorist groups present in Ecuador, although operationally inactive in the last few years, included the Popular Combatants Group, the Revolutionary Militia of the People, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Ecuador, and the Alfarista Liberation Army.
The Ecuadorian government sought to strengthen controls over money laundering through the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which it established under a 2005 Money Laundering Law. The FIU made some improvements in cooperating with the Anti-Narcotics Police Directorate, the Superintendent of Banks, the courts, and the private banker association to identify suspicious transactions and develop information for the prosecution of cases. An important emphasis of the FIU was to monitor casinos for money laundering activities. The National Police also set up an anti-money laundering unit to carry out investigations into financial crimes.
Ecuador has not criminalized terrorist financing, and the Financial Action Task Force and Financial Action Task Force of South America have encouraged the Ecuadorian government to adopt appropriate counterterrorism financing legislation and regulations. Ecuador is not yet a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence units, as terrorist finance legislation is a requirement for Egmont membership.
Ecuador's judicial institutions remained weak, susceptible to corruption, and heavily backlogged with pending cases. While the military and police made numerous arrests, the judicial system had a poor record of achieving convictions.
Ecuadorian immigration officials allowed almost all travelers to enter the country for 90 days without a visa, including travelers from countries of concern for terrorism, drug smuggling, and illegal immigration. Ecuador's 2008 constitutional declaration of the rights of all to migrate eliminated the concept of illegal immigration in the country, and combined with the visa-free policy, removed effective screening to entry to the western hemisphere for travelers of all nationalities. Consequently, official Ecuadorian immigration statistics showed dramatic increases – four-fold or higher – from 2007 to 2009 in the number of entries by travelers from state sponsors of terrorism. Other U.S. government agencies have reported recently on active smuggling rings in Ecuador that focus on moving aliens who may raise terrorism concerns at ports of entry to the United States and Canada.