Peru and Ecuador cooperate in the fight against human trafficking, oil theft

The two countries cooperated on other binational security issues for years.
Hólger Álava | 25 November 2013

The presidents of Peru and Ecuador recently agreed to have their respective security forces strengthen their cooperation in the battle against human trafficking and the illegal sales of stolen fuel.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa announced the initiatives after they met on Nov. 14, 2013, in the city of Piura, Peru, near the Ecuadorean border. The meeting between of the two presidents concluded the VII Binational Ministerial Cabinet Meeting.

The two presidents announced they had signed the two security cooperation agreements.

Ongoing cooperation

Peru and Ecuador have cooperated on other binational security issues for years.

For example, the two countries patrol their national waters through an exchange program of sea patrol officers. The naval forces of both countries have an educational agreement, which has helped “generate an ongoing friendship between the Armed Forces to work hand in hand in peace building,” according to Homero Arellano, the Ecuadorean Minister of National Security.

Peru and Ecuador share a border that is 1420 km long. Cooperation on security matters is important to both countries, Arellano said.

“Ecuador and Peru are living a great moment in their binational relationships,” Arellano explained.

Because Peru and Ecuador share the same security challenges, binational cooperation is the best way to fight organized crime groups, said Héctor Chávez, a security analyst at the University of Guayaquil.

“Joint security work by the two countries guarantees success,” Chávez said. “When talking about security along the borderline, it is better to coordinate actions instead of making unilateral decisions.”

Fighting fuel trafficking

In recent years, Peruvian and Ecuadorean security forces have been fighting organized crime groups which steal fuel in Ecuador and smuggle it into Peru, where they will it illegally.

Every year, organized crime operatives steal hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel in Ecuador and smuggle it into Peru, where it is sold illegally, authorities said.

Thieves smuggle stolen fuel from places like the Ecuadorean city of Huaquillas into the Peruvian city of Tumbes. The thieves often smuggle the fuel in 50-gallon containers.

Organized crime groups sell the stolen fuel on the Peruvian cities of Máncora, Talara, Los Órganos, Sullana and Piura.

Thieves prefer to sell stolen fuel in Peru to attain higher profits. Thieves can sell a large container of stolen gasoline in Ecuador for 9.30 soles (3.32 USD). The same container can be sold in Peru for 35 soles (12.50 USD).

Combatting human trafficking

Under one of the new agreements, Peruvian and Ecuadorian forces will cooperate in the fight against human trafficking, which a particularly acute challenge in Peru.

From 2004 to 2012, Peruvian authorities investigated 1,960 human trafficking cases. Of those, 763 involved victims who were children and teenagers who were sexually exploited, authorities said.

On Nov. 20th, 2013, the Peruvian Supreme Court approved the National Plan against human trafficking. Peru launched the plan immediately after the Supreme Court approved it. The plan calls for security forces to keep a registry of all reported cases and to conduct thorough investigations.

New Peruvian Interior Minister

On the same day the Peruvian Supreme Court approved the National Plan, President Humaala administered the oath of office to Walter Albán Peralta, the country’s new Minister of Interior. As interior minister, Albán will oversee the efforts of Peruvian security forces.

The new interior minister pledged to work hard to improve public safety in Peru. “I will do everything in my power to continue the work to improve security in the country and create trust,” Albán said shortly after he was sworn in. “I will try to create the conditions to allow the country to truly make progress.”

Albán replaced Wilfredo Pedraza, who resigned in mid-November.

Before he was sworn in as interior minister, Albán served as Peru’s permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS). He was appointed to that post in late 2011.

From 2000 to 2005, Albán served in the ombudsman’s office.

Albán should seek cooperation not just from Ecuadorean security forces, but from the civilian population of Peru, said Eduardo Arbulú, a member of the Regional Committee for Citizens Security in Piura.

The new interior minister “will have to call upon different institutions, neighborhood and municipal councils and other social organizations,” Arbulú said.

Ecuador and Colombia

Now that it has strengthened ties with Peru, Ecuador is seeking to improve cooperation on security issues with Colombia.

The presidents of the two countries will meet on Nov. 25 to discuss security issues along the border shared by Ecuador and Colombia.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Ecuadorean President Correa are expected to discuss drug trafficking, fuel smuggling, and the incursion of Colombian organized crime groups into Ecuador.

‘El Chapo’ operative is re-captured

Colombia and Ecuador already cooperate on security issues.

For example, in April 2013, Colombia security forces captured Cesar Demar Vernaza Quinonez, an Ecuadorian national who is known as “El Empresario.”

El Empresario was the leader of a gang known as “Los Templados.” El Empresario and Los Templados transported and protected drug shipments for the Sinaloa Cartel, the Mexican transnational criminal organization which is led by fugitive kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

In April 2012, Ecuadorean National Police captured El Empresario. Ten months later, in February 2013, El Empresario escaped from an Ecuadorian prison. Cooperatoin between Ecuador and Colombia led to the recapture of El Empresario by Colombian security forces