Ecuador signed Wednesday a cooperation agreement with the United States to fight transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.
The agreement, signed by Ecuadorean Interior Minister Cesar Navas and U.S. ambassador Todd Chapman, will support the creation of an Office for Investigating Transnational Criminals.
On the same day Chapman told El Telegrafo the U.S. is waiting for an “official request” by the Ecuadorean government for the return of a U.S. military team in charge of cooperation in security that was expelled from the country in 2014.
Former President Rafael Correa expelled the Office arguing it was “outrageous” to have foreign military presence in the country and accused them of infiltrating Ecuadorean institutions to conspire against his government.
Recent escalation in violent incidents in Ecuador’s northern border with Colombia, which started with attacks on Ecuador's state security infrastructure and personnel, has provided justification for a more militaristic approach.
In late March three Ecuadoreans belonging to a journalistic team of the local newspaper El Comercio were kidnapped by an illegal armed group with ties to the international drug trade. The three men were later murdered under unknown conditions.
“Guacho,” the alleged leader of the armed group, claimed their execution was a response to military landing near their encampment where the three hostages were being held.
Since news of the three men’s execution was made public, the Ecuadorean government has announced a series of militaristic responses, including sending 10,000 troops to the border with Colombia and the latest agreement with the United States.
The latest case of violence in the border was the kidnapping of an Ecuadorian couple, approximately on April 17. In a video sent to Ecuadorean authorities, one of the hostages spoke to the president. "Mr. President, they tell you to help us, to lend a hand, to avoid what happened to the journalists, we have nothing to do with this war," the man said.
Since the kidnapping occurred there have been news of military actions and cooperation agreements but nothing has been said of actions being taken to rescue the couple.
Moreno’s move is a further shift away from the policies of his left-wing predecessor and former ally, Rafael Correa, who has criticized and refused to participate in the U.S.-sponsored Plan Colombia, arguing peace is not obtained with helicopters and weapons but rather by promoting economic and social development.
Many have criticized the Plan Colombia and the wider U.S. “war against drugs” for producing more violence rather than de-escalating conflicts and finding negotiated ways out. Moreno’s detractors fear these actions will generate more violence as it has done in Colombia, Mexico and Central America over the years.