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Ecuador FARC

Ecuador FARC

A number of Ecuador Living subscribers have asked about an emailed report entitled “New Study: Ecuador’s Growing Role with the FARC and Transnational Crime” that is being spammed across the internet.

The email suggests that the FARC presence in Ecuador and the drug trade is growing.  This article seemed so imbalanced that I would have ignored it had I not been asked by readers to respond.

I have added my opinion at www.garyascott.com and contacted many of my friends across Ecuador asking for their comments. Here are some of their replies.

An American business woman on the coast sent this note:

Hi Gary,  I am far from an expert on this subject, but have a few thoughts based on personal experience and common sense.

1.  I didn’t see any back up in the article to which the e-mail links indicating who or what organization is the source of the information regarding ties to the FARC and drug trafficking.

2.  The country seems to be taking aggressive measures to prevent drug money and money laundering.  A few months ago a large sum of money was wired to our bank in Ecuador as a disbursement  from my parents’ estate.  Before we were able to withdrawal any of it we needed to speak with the bank president and get approval, which included filling out a form explaining where the money had come from and showing a document from the estate attorney testifying that the money had legitimate origin.

3.  Along the lines of point #2, buyers of our Spondylus project are required to fill out a declaration that the funds they are using to buy their unit have legitimate origin and that specifically they were not obtained in any manner having to do with illegal drugs.  This is not a requirement mandated by us; it is a general business requirement.

The article is very surprising to me, as anything I hear on the local news or personally experience would lead me to believe the exact opposite.

An attorney from Cuenca wrote:

Gary, I do not agree with many of these statements.

I know Correa is not selling the country correctly but the reality is that Venezuela is completely different from Ecuador.

Ecuador is definitely safer than Colombia or Peru. Gorillas and drugs have always been Colombian problems not Ecuador’s.

Ecuador is affected on the sidelines sometimes by these problems from Colombia or Peru, but it is Colombia that has had a war going on for more than 50 years.

Even if we elect another  president our border will have the same problems.

A retired American living in Cotacachi replied:

Hi Gary, that article is quite a read! I don’t know much about the Bolivia part of the email, but as far as Ecuador being used to traffic drugs….I would say probably! I see on the news at least once, twice, or more a week where they have made a big bust of cocaine and some heroine sometimes a little pot. It is usually around Tulcan across to the Esmeralda area. There was the event last year where the Colombian army chased the FARC across the Ecuadorian border and killed 10 or more people. It seems that they, the FARC, are coming across the border and using Ecuador as a storage place and maybe production to try and make it harder for the Colombian army to destroy their cocaine production. I did see on TV where the Ecuadorian army was sweeping the border area and dismantling and burning down camps and arresting people that were connected to drug trafficking. So, it seems like they are taking steps to stop it or at least hinder it.

An European businessman who has lived in Cotacachi for decades  sent this thought:

Good Morning Gary,  It is a well known fact that the Ecuadorian President has close ties to both Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. However, while it also is true that drug companies have established themselves within Ecuador they are constantly being dug up by the military and have suffered great losses in the past according to local news reports. My humble opinion of the article is that somebody not being of the same opinion as several leaders (that would include Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua as well) wants to stir things up. In the past it has been a known fact that the United States placed their importance towards South American countries who shared their opinion and now we have a big mess all around.  I could almost imagine that some people do not like the fact that you within your column are promoting in particular Ecuador and wish to stir up trouble.

An American real estate developer on the coast said:

Hi Gary,  I have heard rumors of a lab in Ecuador being possibly connected to the FARC,  but I would be surprised if there wasn´t a few here as there probably hundreds of them in other countries around the world including many of the Mexican labs in the USA. I have lived here full time for the last 10 years and find it a very safe place to live.

An Ecuadorian Indigenous college student replied:

Sr. Gary,  I am not a military or political expert either, but I am Ecuadorian I have lived here all my life.  I voted for Correa and probably that is going to prejudice my reply but I will try to be impartial.

A lot of things have been in some news, like Correa’s campaign was funded by the FARC.   But in the end no one showed any proof.   This is no longer in the news at all.  About the drugs passing by the country, Colombia is our neighbor and in one or other way is affecting us, but this problem is less worse even less  the the time the US had a military base in  Manta.

The crime in some big cities especially outside the suburbs is the same as other big cities in any country around the world, some Colombians and Cubans are coming to Ecuador  and not all are good people.

Personally for sure Ecuador is not perfect, but we feel that life is better than it was over the last ten years.

A Quito businessman wrote:

Since I am no military or political expert myself either, I searched what I consider to be an unbiassed assessment of Ecuador’s political situation and its position towards the FARC.  Please refer to the following link http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35761.htm, which is a document issued by the US State Department.

If you scroll down in the text to the pertinent part, you will find that under Foreign Relations the US Department of State recognizes that Ecuador is deploying more troops to the northern border to control the FARC’s presence in the area. For your better reference I am copying and pasting a part of the webpage’s content (below).   I recommend that you read the analysis in the link.  I hope this helps.  Best,

US State Department. QUOTE

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Ecuador always has placed great emphasis on multilateral approaches to international problems. Ecuador is a member of the United Nations (and most of its specialized agencies), the Organization of American States (OAS), and many regional groups, including the Rio Group, the Latin American Energy Organization, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and the Community of Andean Nations (CAN). In August 2009, Ecuador assumed the one-year rotational presidency of UNASUR.

Under the Correa administration, Ecuador has increased its efforts to strengthen and diversify its political and economic ties with countries within Latin American, Europe, and Asia. In Latin America, President Correa has traveled to Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Cuba, for example, where his government has signed agreements to promote economic cooperation. Similarly, outside the region, Correa has visited Spain, Italy, and France, as well as China, Iran, and Russia, among other countries.

In October 1998, Ecuador and Peru reached a peace agreement to settle their border differences, which had festered since the signing of the 1942 Rio Protocol. This long-running border dispute occasionally erupted into armed hostility along the undemarcated sections, with the last conflict occurring in 1995. The U.S. Government, as one of the four guarantor nations (the others were Argentina, Brazil and Chile), played an important role in bringing the conflict to an end. The peace agreement brokered by the four guarantors in February 1995 led to the cessation of hostilities and a Military Observers Mission to Ecuador-Peru (MOMEP) which monitored the zone. In addition to helping broker the peace accord, the U.S. has been active in demining the former area of conflict and supporting welfare and economic projects in the border area.

The ongoing conflict in Colombia and security along the 450-mile-long northern border are important issues in Ecuador’s foreign relations with Colombia. The instability of border areas and frequent encroachments of Colombian guerillas into Ecuadorian territory has led the Ecuadorian army to deploy more troops to the region. Although Ecuadorian officials have stated that Colombian guerrilla activity will not be tolerated on the Ecuadorian side of the border, guerrilla bands have been known to intimidate the local population, demanding extortion payments and practicing vigilante justice. The Correa administration is pursuing a policy known as Plan Ecuador to develop the northern border region and protect citizens from the drug threat. A Colombian military incursion into Ecuador in March 2008 caused the Government of Ecuador to break diplomatic relations. In October 2009, Ecuador and Colombia agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations at the chargé d’affaires level.

U.S.-ECUADORIAN RELATIONS

The United States and Ecuador have mutual interests in combating narcotrafficking and cooperating in fostering Ecuador’s economic development and reducing poverty. Ties have been strengthened by the presence of an estimated one million to two million Ecuadorians living in the United States, by 150,000 U.S. citizens visiting Ecuador annually, and by approximately 20,000 U.S. citizens residing in Ecuador. More than 100 U.S. companies are doing business in Ecuador. In February 2009, the Government of Ecuador expelled two U.S. Embassy officials who administered U.S. assistance to specialized police units. A Department of State spokesperson rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing by Embassy staff.
The U.S. launched a Bilateral Dialogue with Ecuador in November 2008, during which cooperation in human development and poverty reduction, economic development, commerce and investment, and migratory issues was discussed. The second plenary meeting is planned for late 2009, and will include a discussion of security-related issues, in addition to continuing initiatives begun in the first plenary meeting.

The United States assists Ecuador’s economic development directly through the Agency for International Development (USAID), through multilateral organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, and through trade and technology transfers facilitated by the Foreign Commercial Service (FCS). In addition, the U.S. Peace Corps and the State Department’s Narcotic Affairs Section operate sizable programs in Ecuador. Total U.S. assistance to Ecuador amounted to over $40 million in 2008. 

The United States is Ecuador’s principal trading partner. In 2008, Ecuador exported about $8.4 billion in products to the U.S. For over 10 years Ecuador has benefited from duty-free entry for many of its exports under the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) and received additional trade benefits under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) in 2002. The U.S. Congress approved a number of extensions of those benefits, now set to expire on December 31, 2009. In May 2004 Ecuador entered into negotiations for an Andean free trade agreement with the U.S., Colombia, and Peru, but negotiations between the U.S. and Ecuador have not resumed since the Government of Ecuador announced controversial reforms to hydrocarbons legislation in April 2006. The Correa administration has stated it has no interest in negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States. 

The United States exported $3.32 billion in goods to Ecuador in 2008, a slight increase over 2007, which accounts for just over 19% of Ecuador’s imports. Ecuador is the 46th-largest market for U.S. exports. Major U.S. exports to Ecuador include machinery, chemicals and fertilizers, computers and electronic equipment, petroleum products, transportation equipment, and paper. The best prospects for U.S. firms are in the plastics, decontamination equipment, franchising, and medical equipment and devices sectors. U.S. firms remain competitive and successful in many sectors of the market.

Although there are problems with money laundering, border controls, and illegal immigration, Ecuador shares U.S. concern over narcotrafficking and the activities of illegal armed groups. The government has maintained Ecuador virtually free of coca production since the mid-1980s, and is working to combat money laundering and the transshipment of drugs and chemicals essential to the processing of cocaine (with U.S. support). Ecuador also gives priority to combating child labor and trafficking in persons.

Ecuador and the U.S. agreed in 1999 to a 10-year arrangement whereby U.S. military surveillance aircraft could use the airbase at Manta, Ecuador, as a Forward Operating Location (FOL) to detect drug trafficking flights through the region. The Ecuadorian Government informed the United States in July 2008 that it will not renew the lease for the Forward Operating Location when it expires in November 2009. The U.S. ceased these counternarcotics flights in July and fully departed the FOL in September 2009.

US State Department UNQUOTE

See more replies at FARC & Ecuador.

There you have it… experienced people for all walks of life, who agree with me… that Ecuador is a good place to be.

Gary

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