A dollarized economy allows criminal activities such as money laundering to be carried out more easily, something fundamental for drug trafficking to remain a transnational business, warns the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, in an exclusive interview with Sputnik, at a time when his country is facing its worst security crisis in recent years.
During his decade in office (2007-2017), Rafael Correa noticed some signs that organized crime was seeking to infiltrate Ecuador’s security apparatus, especially as Mexican drug cartels turned to South America to strengthen their ties, which had already existed since the 1980s, when Colombian Pablo Escobar was the most wanted drug lord in the United States.
“In 2010 we saw a greater influence of Mexican drug cartels, especially the Sinaloa cartel. That is why we tightened laws and controls,” said the former president.
The Ecuadorian government, headed by President Daniel Noboa, is facing an extremely tough security situation, with prisons turned into centers of organized crime and television broadcasters threatened on live tv by armed men.
During Correa’s administration, Ecuador was one of the safest and most transparent countries in Latin America, according to Ecuadorian official data and organizations such as Transparency International. Although there have been changes in power in Ecuador since then, Correa remains a highly knowledgeable political personality who knows the complex intricacies of Latin American dynamics. For this reason, he does not hesitate to say that the fight against drug trafficking must be free of hypocrisy, and should focus on the financial operations of criminal groups, which extend their networks from Latin America to the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
“A dollarized economy is more susceptible to organized crime because it is easier to launder money. It does not have an exchange rate, there are no records of those [cartel] operations,” Correa said.
According to him, there is “a great hypocrisy in the fight against corruption and drug trafficking,” because the Armed Forces and the Police are used against criminals and hired killers, but no action is taken against the financing methods of the cartels, which consists of converting dirty money into clean money, a fairly common alchemy in a global banking system where the dollar reigns.
The real challenge: putting an end to tax havens
According to data from the United Nations, organized crime moves around $870 billion every year, while the US Treasury Department has admitted that $100 billion of organized crime’s money flow annually in the US banking system.
“All the big corruption cases that there were in my government, big cases, basically there were two, Odebrecht and the repairing of the refinery, all of that was through a tax haven,” Correa pointed out. “That is because you can see if someone is selling at an overprice… But how can you see an account in Andorra? How can you detect that?”
In Ecuador, for example, as in several countries around the world, if someone deposits $10,000 in a bank, the financial authorities are alerted, but if someone deposits hundreds of millions of dollars in a tax haven, nobody knows about it, Correa noted.
“If we want to fight corruption and organized crime, we must fight tax havens!” he said. “But nothing is said about tax havens because tax havens are located in the United States, in Nevada, Florida, South Dakota, Delaware, as well as in the British Commonwealth colonies, in all the Caribbean islands such as the Bahamas and Nassau. Also in Europe: Luxembourg, Andorra, Liechtenstein, a country with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.”
In fact, the most recent study (2023) of the Global Organized Crime Index warns that “the private sector has also been a key factor in facilitating and participating in organized crime, bridging the gap between licit and illicit economies.” According to the study, the involvement of private companies in organized crime ranges from facilitating the laundering of illegally obtained money to colluding in criminal activities.
From Correa’s point of view, the fight against drugs in Latin America, and in a good part of the world, has been “a great failure,” since repression and bombing drug producers are ineffective methods “if nothing is done with the massive consumption of the United States.” In this regard, he recalled a phrase of the writer Eduardo Galeano: “In the fight against drugs, responsibilities are shared: we provide the dead, they [the US] provide the noses.”
Possible US interference in Ecuador
Numerous social activists, politicians, and public opinion in general have expressed their concern that Washington has some kind of interference in Ecuadorian public policies, in the midst of the violence in the country. It would not be the first time that the White House and US security agencies intervene in a similar matter: it has already happened in Colombia and Mexico, where despite US aid and weapons, organized crime still operates as a de facto power.
“We Latin Americans are specialists in denying the evidence, in believing the impossible,” Correa commented in this regard. “When has US interference in these matters yielded results? Colombia has seven US military bases and is the main drug producer in the world! I do fear a Plan Colombia in Ecuador and I believe that is where they are headed.”
Correa warned that the Constitutional Court of Ecuador is trying to engineer a possible agreement with Washington to form a kind of Plan Ecuador and is trying to ensure in this way “that their (US) soldiers will not be criminally charged” and they will be “free to rape our girls” and “that we cannot prosecute them.” According to Correa, this “is unacceptable,” especially because the governments that followed his government “destroyed the country” and “now they need the gringos.”
“We had the US military base in Manta until 2009. We had almost 17 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. After the base was closed, homicides began to drop and the rate became 5.8 per 100,000,” he noted.
‘They destroyed everything because of political hatred’
Ecuador experienced the most violent year in its history in 2023 with at least 7,592 homicides, an increase of almost 70% compared to 2022, according to official data. After being one of the safest countries in Latin America, it now has the eleventh highest crime rate of any country in the world, the highest third in South America, and the fourth in the American continent, according to the Global Organized Crime Index.
Violence has even crept into the Ecuadorian political system. Prior to the elections of October 2023, presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was assassinated after receiving threats from drug traffickers. But that is not all. The current president himself, Daniel Noboa, who has only been in office for two months, recently admitted to the UN that he has also been threatened by criminal gangs.
At what point did everything get out of control in Ecuador? Rafael Correa said that the answer is simple: in the last seven years, during the administrations of Lenin Moreno (2017-2021), Guillermo Lasso (2021-2023), and Daniel Noboa (2023-present), state institutions were dismantled and made vulnerable to crime.
“They destroyed everything because of political hatred, ideological fundamentalism, and the imposition of neoliberalism to weaken the State,” Correa commented. “I have to say something: in 2017 we won the elections but we were betrayed. My successor, who was from my party, turned against me and started persecuting us and, to make us look bad, destroyed the entire structure we had built of the State… especially the security apparatus.”
The former president concluded that, although the objective of his opponents was to slim down a State that they described as “obese,” the result was catastrophic for the whole Ecuadorian society, today submerged in an internal armed conflict that reminds us of the beginning of the war on drugs waged by Mexico and Colombia not so long ago.
(Sputnik) by Eduardo Bautista
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
- scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/February 17, 2024
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