Ecuador insecure, drug crimes hit exporters – business group

GUayaquil, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Insecurity in Ecuador is hurting exports of products such as bananas and shrimp from the Andean country, with containers attacked and cargo contaminated with drugs, the exporters’ association said.

The Ecuadorian Exporters Association (Cordex) said at least 63 people linked to the export of bananas, shrimp and cocoa – raw materials used to make chocolate – were killed by organized crime groups in 2022, with another 1,500 in attacks Injuried.

The three industries, Ecuador’s most important export after oil, also reported threats and extortion, Cordex said.

“Insecurity is our biggest concern,” Cordex President Jose Antonio Camposano told reporters in the port city of Guayaquil on Ecuador’s Pacific coast on Wednesday.

“Every year, the industry represented here spends at least $100 million on security … because the state can’t provide it to us,” he added.

President Guillermo Lasso’s government did not respond to a request for comment.

Russo, a conservative former banker, has been working to tackle rising crime and violence on the streets and in prisons, which the government blames on drug gangs.

Ecuadorian shrimp exporters have been forced to hire armed guards to transport feed, Camposano added, and there have been at least a dozen roadside attacks in the last month.

Banana and cocoa exporters have been hit hard by the inclusion of drugs in this year’s shipments.

Ivan Ontaneda, president of the Cocoa Exporters Association, said there has been a 400 percent increase in drug contamination in sea containers this year, with reports from ports across Ecuador.

“We’re losing markets because customers who buy products abroad don’t want to get involved in legal or criminal issues, which is what’s happening with container contamination in our supply chain,” Ontaneda said.

During Russo’s 18-month tenure as leader, Ecuadorian security forces seized 370 tons of drugs, according to the Ecuadorian government.

Reporting by Yuri Garcia in Guayaquil Writing by Oliver Griffin Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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