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An anti-narcotics scan will be carried out on all Ecuadorian exports

Published on October 26, 2021

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President Lasso signed a decree that also provides for revisions to certain imports.

All cargoes leaving Ecuador must now go through an anti-drug scan. Last Tuesday President Guillermo Lasso signed a decree establishing this requirement. In addition, he says that controls in temporary warehouses, ports, airports and border crossings will be strengthened.

To establish the measure, the decree Lasso signed amended Executive Decree 758 of 2011, signed in the Rafael Correa government, through which the regulations for customs facilitation of trade were issued. The new decree says that controls with non-intrusive equipment —which are X-ray machines— will be carried out on “merchandise, cargo units and means of transport destined for export” in their entirety.  

In addition, the decree says that the same type of controls will be carried out on merchandise, cargo units and means of transport for imports “that have been outlined by risks.” That is, the loads that for any reason are considered suspicious will be analyzed.

The decision and the operation of the equipment, says the decree, will be under the charge of the National Customs Service of Ecuador and will not be delegated. The decree signed by Lasso says that customs must sign “the necessary agreements” with the National Police for “the exercise of the corresponding control through non-intrusive equipment and inspection.”

Why were the controls increased?

A statement published by the General Secretariat of Communication of the Presidency (Segcom)  says that President Lasso’s decision “corresponds to a complementary action to the National Security Plan.”

Other recently announced measures are also included, such as the declaration of a state of exception and the creation of the Legal Defense Unit of the Public Force to protect all members of the National Police and the Armed Forces who, according to the President, “are sued for simply fulfilling their duty.” The Alliance of Human Rights Organizations said that it rejects the militarization of the streets and asked that the right to resistance of social organizations that want to protest be respected.

In addition, there is the formation of an inter-institutional committee to prevent and stop addiction and reintegrate those who consume substances into society. These actions, the statement said, are part of the government’s fight against drug trafficking, mafias and crime.

The next action, according to Segcom, is the draft Law on Defense of the Duty of the Public Force with which Lasso hopes to “support law enforcement officials.” Thus, Lasso said, the government will deploy, coordinate, protect and unite all the forces of order to “restore security to the citizens.” The way the government has approached the crisis has been criticized by various experts such as Yaakov Cedeno, a military expert, who feels that taking the military out onto the streets is not a good idea. According to Cedeno, there is no evidence to show that deploying the Armed Forces reduces crime levels.

The state of exception

On the night of October 18, President Lasso decreed a state of exception due to “a serious internal commotion” in the country and due to the high levels of insecurity in several. The state of exception applies throughout the country and will last 60 days. However, the Constitutional Court still has to control the constitutionality of the presidential order. The Constitution establishes that this is a process that must be done with all decrees that include a state of exception.

According to the decree, the main objectives of the declaration of the state of exception are to:

  • Protect the rights of people in the country,
  • control insecurity, and
  • restore peace and public order.

The decree orders to send the Armed Forces to the streets, to deploy more police, and to order the Ministry of Economy and Finance to deliver the necessary resources to address the state of emergency.

In a transmission on Segcom’s social networks, on the night of October 18th, Lasso said that during the state of emergency, the personnel of the National Police and the Armed Forces will be in charge of carrying out gun controls, inspections, drug searches and patrols 24 hours a day. In addition, he said that “we will give the necessary support to the forces of order to carry out the fight against crime.”

Lasso said more attention will be paid to provinces where crime rates in those places justify it. The decree provides that Armed Forces personnel are mobilized in the coastal provinces of El Oro, Guayas, Santa Elena, Manabí, Los Ríos, Esmeraldas, and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. In the Sierra, the military will be in Pichincha, and in the Amazon, military will be sent to the border province of Sucumbíos . In the rest of the provinces, says the decree, the actions of the National Police will be reinforced.

Port operators ask for an explanation of the cargo scanning decree

The operators of Ecuador’s ports are seeking contacts with the Government to learn the details of the presidential.

“There are still many loose edges,” says Sergio Murillo, President of the Association of Private Port Terminals of Ecuador (Asotep), which controls six terminals: Naportec, Fertisa, QC, StoreOcean, TPI and Terminal Portuario de Guayaquil.

That is why they seek to dialogue with Carola Ríos, National Director of the National Customs Service of Ecuador (Senae), which “could happen next week.”

“You have to explore the details and protocols to implement the plan,” adds Murillo.

The Senae has 60 days to define the minimum requirements that teams must meet.

Who pays the bill?

Murillo says that there are two issues to be clarified about the President’s decree: Who pays for the installation of the scanners? And how is the scanning service fee applied?

The cost of a scanner with the capacity to register trucks arriving with containers at ports exceeds $3 million.

“Is it going to be an investment from the State, a donation from a foreign government or will it be requested from the operators. A rate or value to be charged for the service must be approved,” said Murillo.

According to Murillo, the Government must seek a mechanism to facilitate the fulfillment of the goal of having “more Ecuador in the world and more world in Ecuador.”

“Scanning the entire cargo is very challenging, but it is necessary given the level of threat that exists,” said Murillo.

Single port with scanner

In Ecuador, only the deep-water port of Posorja has cargo control scanners to monitor attempts to ship illegal drugs through export product containers.

Since the beginning of operations, the Anti-Narcotics Police, which is in charge of control within the port, has detected drug shipments on nine occasions.

A report from a unit of the United States Department of State indicates that 70% of the drugs that are sent from Ecuador to North America leave the Port of Guayaquil by sea.

At least 1,000 containers per day leave through the ports of Ecuador, of which 800 do so through Guayaquil.

The problem is such that Ecuadorian banana growers indicated that they spend $200 per container on anti-narcotics controls.

The shrimp sector also calculates the economic impact due to the security issue to prevent its cargo from being contaminated.

In the fishing sector, security mechanisms have been implemented, in which up to 30 people intervene to check the containers.

In Ecuador, in addition to the Port of Posorja, Puerto Bolívar, Port of Guayaquil, Balao (oil) and Manta operate.

All port terminals have the permanent presence of the anti-narcotics police.

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