Never before had Ecuador seized as many drugs in a single location as in a pig farm in the Estero Lagarto sector in the coastal province of Los Ríos, about 250 kilometers from Quito. 22 tons of cocaine hydrochloride were stored in 733 jute bundles, perfectly packaged in brick form and labeled with the names that would be the drug's destinations: Iberia, KLM, Qatar, AB, JET2. “There are six different logos that make it clear where the targets were,” said César Zapata, police commander.
The Bundeswehr carried out the operation with 150 soldiers on Sunday morning and ended at dusk. What seemed like a blow to the drug trade turned out to be an unprecedented discovery. A dozen soldiers investigated the location where nearly ten tons of drugs were buried. They dug four meters underground for hours to remove the packages containing the illegal substance, which would be worth a billion dollars on the international market.
The military's search led them to a sewer that led to an underground labyrinth containing another 12 tons of cocaine hydrochloride. The finding reinforces investigations by the armed forces, which claim that Ecuador is not only a transit country, but that it may also have drug processing laboratories. Additionally, 12 rifles and more than 5,000 pieces of ammunition were found on the property.
According to authorities, the success of the operation was the result of a six-month investigation through observation and surveillance by military intelligence. However, it is not clear who owns the property. “We are working to find out who it belongs to,” added the police commander, who explained that the drugs were to be transported on boats to contaminate cargo ships leaving ports and sent to the United States, Central America, Europe and Asia would .
The farm was a drug and weapons collection point, “a whitewashed warehouse with the facade of a pork center,” Army officials said during the operation. Estero Lagarto is a rural area very well camouflaged, surrounded by mountains and vast agricultural areas accessible only by a narrow dirt road, practically in the middle of nowhere. Only one person guarding the farm was arrested during the operation. Public forces have called on judicial authorities to quickly destroy the 22 tons of drugs that required a military truck to transport.
According to the latest report from the United Nations Office on Drug Control, Ecuador is the third country in the world where cocaine has been seized the most. In the last three years, around 550 tonnes of illegal substances have been seized in the country. The international drug trade is one of the reasons for the war between gangs that is being waged in the territory and has led to levels of violence never seen before in the South American country. In the first days of 2024, 27 violent deaths were recorded every day. With the state of war decree of January 9th, they were reduced to ten daily events, said the police commander.
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