A U.S.-based think-tank has published a report expressing concern over Ecuador’s ties to the FARC, and the Andean nation’s growing reputation as neutral meeting ground for drug traffickers.
The International Assessment and Strategy Center’s (IASC) report states that Ecuador’s geographic position and its adoption of the U.S. dollar have “made it a vulnerable and attractive crossroads for transnational non-state armed groups.”
“These factors, taken together with the changing internal situation in Colombia and the expanding influence of the Mexican drug cartels have, over the past three years, helped turn Ecuador into an important and growing center of operations for transnational organized criminal gangs,” the report explains.
The IASC report also recognizes “the significant growth of FARC drug trafficking networks through Ecuador, driven by the guerrillas’ increasing dependence on the cocaine trade for financing and the Colombian military’s success in pushing the rebels out of the center of the country toward the border regions with Ecuador and Venezuela.”
According to IASC, the FARC is becoming increasingly dependant on Ecuador as a source of food, medicine and weapons.
Colombia’s relationship with Ecuador has been rocky over the past few years. Ecuador froze diplomatic relations with its neighbour after the Colombian army stormed a FARC camp on Ecuadorean territory on March 1, 2008.
Relations deteriorated further after it was revealed that an Ecuadorean citizen was killed in the raid, in which FARC leader “Raul Reyes” was also killed.
Colombia considers information found on Raul Reyes’ computer to be evidence of ties between the FARC and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s government. Colombia has also accused Ecuador of harboring the FARC within its borders.
Correa denies any involvement with the guerrilla group. Members of his government are currently on trial in Ecuador for FARC involvement.
Colombian-Ecuadorean relations began to normalize following a meeting between the two nations in Spetember 2009. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will keep his agenda open to meet with Correa at a UNASUR meeting to be held in Quito next Tuesday.