QUITO – Ecuadorian police reported Monday the seizure of 1.8 tons of cocaine about to be shipped to Mexico hidden in burlap bags containing palm-nut paste.
Nine people were arrested in the operation including five of Colombian nationality, members of a gang suspected of shipping drugs abroad and which apparently has ties with international cartels.
The drug was found on several banana plantations, one of them in the Las Vainas sector of the coastal province of Manabi, where the alkaloid was mixed with palm-nut paste, normally used as feed for animals.
“We were able to find the industrial blenders they used for the work they were doing. They apparently planned to ship this mixture to Manzanilla, Mexico,” a police officer said.
In “Operation Madriguera,” as the police action was called, 400 kilos (880 pounds) of pure drug were seized, ready to be processed and packaged in the burlap bags, the daily El Telegrafo said in its online edition.
Interior Minister Jose Serrano said that Ecuadorian police are investigating possible ties with drug-trafficking organizations abroad, given the apparent origin and destination of the alkaloid.
Ecuador is not a drug producing country, though gangs of drug traffickers make use of its national territory as one of its routes for shipments going north.
Serrano recalled that so far this year, Ecuador has seized some 49.6 tons of illegal drugs.