How a Peaceful Country Became a Gold Rush State for Drug Cartels

July 13, 2023

A total of 210 tons of drugs seized in a single year, a record. And all this chaos financed by powerful outsiders with deep pockets and lots of experience in the global drug business. Ecuador, on South America’s western edge, has in just a few years become the drug trade’s gold rush state, with major cartels from as far as Mexico and Albania joining forces with prison and street gangs, unleashing a wave of violence unlike anything in the country’s recent history. Fueling this turmoil is the world’s growing demand for cocaine. “People consume abroad,” said Maj. Edison Núñez, an intelligence official with the Ecuadorean national police, “but they don’t understand the consequences that take place here.”