The member countries of the Andean Community, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, have created the first border security network to tackle rising crime in the region. The Andean Community, created in 1969, is a supranational organization that brings together more than 114 million citizens of the four member countries. Faced with the worrying increase in criminal activity in the area, it has decided to join forces to control the borders between the four countries, which are often used as drug trafficking routes and for the illegal transit of criminals.
According to the agreement, this security network will operate “24 hours a day, 7 days a week”. This decision represents a further step in the fight against organized crime by these countries and comes after the outbreak of violence that one of its members, Ecuador, has been experiencing for several weeks.
This cooperation and intelligence body will provide and receive “information from other countries (…) on the activity of criminal groups that have, or may have, transnational operations,” according to the agreement signed by Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
Guaranteeing the institutional framework
The power of these criminal groups has been on the rise in recent years, thanks to illegal and highly lucrative activities such as drug trafficking. That is why states have wanted to take a step forward to assert their legitimate authority in their territories.
The security network will “immediately alert on relevant acts perpetrated” by these organizations, even if they “have been committed within a single participating country”. The idea is to coordinate information and police and armed forces operations against criminal gangs in the best possible way, anticipating their criminal activities as far as possible.
All this took place at the meeting of the Andean Community in Lima last weekend, within the framework of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Andean Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs.
The meeting in the Peruvian capital followed a call to action by the Secretary General of the Andean Community, Gonzalo Gutierrez, who stressed the need for member countries to assume “commitments of measures” merged for the good of the territories.
Total fight against organized crime
Marked by the case of Ecuador, the Andean Community wants to guarantee institutionality, facing issues such as drug trafficking, arms trafficking, irregular migration, illegal mining and smuggling. These are all activities that are shaping a growth in the economic and military capacity of illegal groups that dare to challenge the hegemony of states.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld hailed the agreement, stressing the need to combat the fear that grips society in the countries fighting against organized crime. “We have made history, we have written a new chapter in the Andean Community”, said the head of Quito’s diplomacy.
The minister wanted to relate the step taken in her country by the government of President Noboa with this decision of the international organization. The Ecuadorian president has launched a relentless war against organized crime and illegal gangs. By means of a first decree of exception, a declaration of war was initiated that ended with the establishment of the “internal armed conflict” in Ecuador since January 9, 2024.
“Fear paralyzes countries. We have seen that the fear of civil society paralyzed Ecuador, paralyzed investments, increased unemployment and migration,” commented the country’s foreign minister.
Border transit of criminal gangs
In the wake of the violence in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia have stepped up surveillance along their borders with that country to prevent the possible entry of gang members attempting to flee military and police persecution.
Now, they are seeking to increase cooperation between all countries with military and intelligence control over their border points. “This reality obliges us to act in a coordinated manner. There is no safe country if the neighbor suffers the insane attack of these groups. This problem must be confronted with forcefulness,” said Peru’s chief of staff, Alberto Otárola.
Located between Colombia and Peru, the world’s largest producers of cocaine, Ecuador managed for decades to be exempt from the violence of drug trafficking, but the gangs have transformed what was merely a transit and storage territory into a center of operations and logistics for cocaine shipments, mainly to Europe.
In the last five years, Ecuador’s homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants rose from 6 to 46 in 2023. From the prisons, drug networks have sown terror in the streets and ports. The escape of one of these criminal bosses, alias Fito, on January 7 from a prison in Guayaquil, gave rise to the unprecedented wave of violence that Ecuador is experiencing.
Tackling illegal mining
As with drug trafficking, the agreement between the four countries foresees carrying out, in the first quarter of the year, “a joint and coordinated operation against illegal mining, with emphasis on border areas, due to its connection with the financing of organized criminal groups,” reads the Lima declaration.
The emergency meeting in the Peruvian capital was attended by Peruvian Foreign Minister Javier Gonzalez-Olaechea, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld, Bolivian Minister of Government Carlos Eduardo Del Castillo, and Colombian Deputy Foreign Minister Francisco Coy.
“The security difficulties that Ecuador is facing belong not only to Ecuador, they are typical in the whole region. It is a phenomenon that is attacking everyone,” remarked the Colombian representative.