Global Economy

published : 2023-09-06

Cartels Exploit Banana Trade to Smuggle Cocaine from Latin America: Report

Spain Records Largest-ever Cocaine Bust After Seizing Banana Shipments

A photo of a bustling port with containers being loaded onto ships, taken with a Nikon D850.

Drug cartels have discovered an ingenious method to transport cocaine from Latin America to Europe, utilizing Ecuador's thriving banana trade as a convenient cover.

Authorities in Belgium, Spain, the Czech Republic, and other European countries have intercepted numerous banana shipments originating from Ecuador, each containing millions of dollars' worth of cocaine.

In a recent astonishing seizure, Spain confiscated 9.5 tons of cocaine valued at around $239 million, along with luxury watches and 1.5 million Euros in cash.

Italian police, aided by drug-sniffing dogs, uncovered a staggering 3 tons of cocaine concealed within banana shipments from Ecuador. If successfully delivered to Armenia, it would have been worth a staggering $900 million.

Another startling discovery occurred in a Czech supermarket, where employees stumbled upon 840 kilograms (roughly 1850 pounds) of cocaine, worth approximately $85.5 million, hidden amidst banana shipments that had been wrongly delivered.

News of these daring smuggling attempts has shed light on the extensive reach and audacity of drug cartels, as their lucrative trade poses an increasing threat to the entire European Union.

An image of a police officer inspecting a banana shipment, looking for hidden cocaine, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Although neighboring countries Colombia and Peru are major producers of cocaine globally, the dismantling of the Revolutionary Armed Force of Colombia and their subsequent decrease in activities has created a power vacuum that Mexican drug cartels are now exploiting.

Encouraged by their strength and experience, these powerful cartels have formed alliances with Ecuadorian gangs, using the country's lax border security, extensive port access, and robust shipping infrastructure to establish a stronghold as the main cocaine outlet.

Recent police data has revealed that an astonishing 47.5 metric tons of cocaine were discovered in banana shipments last year alone, despite a 6.4% decrease in the fruit's overall exports.

Ecuador's ports currently inspect no more than 30% of containers, relying on manual checks and drug-sniffing dogs to detect illicit shipments.

However, in a bid to combat this growing crisis, President Guillermo Lasso's government aims to implement container scanners, a step that would greatly enhance detection capabilities. Despite plans to have twelve machines in operation by now, they have yet to be fully deployed.

Exporters in Ecuador are stepping up security measures, investing around $100 million annually in measures such as plantation surveillance cameras, GPS tracking for trucks, and identification of routes that require police patrols to deter gangs.

A photograph of a group of drug-sniffing dogs trained to detect cocaine in banana shipments, taken with a Sony A7 III.

The fight against this insidious trade continues, with agriculture and customs officials recently taking action to eliminate fake or incomplete profiles from the government-run banana export database. Additionally, permits for non-existent plantations spanning approximately 40,000 acres have been revoked.

The battle between drug cartels and authorities is an ongoing struggle, and the outcome will have far-reaching implications for the global fight against organized crime.

Stay tuned as we closely monitor developments in this gripping saga.

Note: This article does not represent the views of Fox News.