The Police say that Los Frailes beach, one of the protected areas of the Machalilla National Park, in Manabí, is being used by gangs for drug trafficking.
Intelligence groups are investigating which criminal organization belonged to a shipment of cocaine hydrochloride found south of Manabí, on Los Frailes beach, one of the protected areas of the Machalilla National Park.
On January 30, 2023, the Police Anti-Drug Investigation Unit carried out an intervened in an illicit drug shipment transfer and arrested five people; only one of them has a criminal record.
In the operation, approximately 1,194 kilos of cocaine were seized, which was intended to be sent in speedboats to Central America, according to Álex Salgado, deputy commander of the Manabí subzone.
Salgado said that the seizure came after several months of investigation, in which they were able to determine that the beach “was used to collect substances subject to control, taking into account that we have a coastal profile that allows immediate departure to Central America by speedboat.”
Fausto Salinas, commander of the Police, added that during the operation, which was called, ‘Benedict,’ they also managed to dismantle a criminal group that sold drugs from the beach in Puerto López. In addition, a truck, a boat and a satellite radio buoy were seized.
The five detainees are Ecuadorians and the Prosecutor’s Office has accused them of allegedly participating in the crime of ‘large-scale drug trafficking.’
The suspects have been in pretrial detention since January 31, 2023, and the investigation will last for 30 days.
The detainees unloaded 32 jute bags from a truck, which contained 1,120 rectangular packages of cocaine.
Police investigations have found that criminal organizations are taking advantage of the beaches, where there are tourists, to camouflage their illegal operations.
“This organization carried out its illegal activities after 5:00 p.m., when the tourists left the place,” explained Salinas.
Meanwhile, intelligence groups are investigating the origin of the seized drugs, but “usually we have some routes that come from the northern part of the country.”
Salgado says that the Manabí province is a “strategic place for drug trafficking, given that we have a broad coastal profile.”
Faced with illegal activities, the police chief says that they are intensifying the information-gathering operations.
On repeated occasions, artisanal fishermen are being detained for being involved in drug trafficking.
According to the Manabí Police, this could be because the Manabí boatmen know the maritime routes.
In addition, Salgado believes that the narco-criminal structures take advantage of—or capture— fishermen and boatmen, because they are not making enough money in their daily activities.
Salgado added that organized crime penetrates this vulnerable group “because the illicit economic revenue is triple what they normally earn.”