Mayors of Antwerp Rotterdam and Hamburg look for ways to stop narcotics coming from Ecuador


On February 1, 2024, Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa sought joint strategies to confront drug trafficking with the mayors of Antwerp (Belgium), Rotterdam (Netherlands), and Hamburg (Germany), whose ports are the three main gateways to northern Europe for cocaine that mafias send from Ecuador, through international maritime trade.

Noboa received Bart de Wever, mayor of Antwerp, Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam and Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, at the Carondelet Presidential Palace in Quito, accompanied by his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabriela Sommerfeld, and Minister of Interior and Government, Mónica Palencia. "Ecuador is a country that always seeks freedom, peace and cooperation with all nations without exception. The European community plays a key role in trade, as well as in cultural exchange, and we hope that it will also play a joint defence role now," Noboa said at the beginning of the meeting, which took place privately. Chancellor Sommerfeld acknowledged that drug trafficking deals "severe blows to the development of economies and trade, especially through the contamination of drug shipments, mainly destined for Europe" and that the meeting served to outline cooperation in the exchange of customs information, but also in circular migration programs.

This visit comes after Noboa elevated the fight against organised crime to the category of "internal armed conflict" and classified criminal gangs, mainly dedicated to drug trafficking, as terrorist groups and non-state belligerent actors following a wave of attacks and violence attributed to these mafias.

Belgian customs broke the annual record for drug seizures in the port of Antwerp in 2023, with a total of 116 tons of cocaine, mainly from Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama.

According to Belgium's Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, who visited Ecuador and Colombia last year with the same purpose of intensifying cooperation against organised crime, at least half of the cocaine arriving in Antwerp comes from Ecuadorian ports, mainly Guayaquil.

The largest cocaine shipment in the country's history was seized in the Dutch port of Rotterdam, Europe's largest, last July, when 8,088 kilos of the drug were found inside a container of bananas from Ecuador, with another European country as its destination. The same situation occurred last year in Spain, which also seized the largest cocaine cache in the country's history, with 9.5 tons of cocaine found in the port of Algeciras from Colombia and loaded into a banana container in the southern Ecuadorian port of Machala.