Dear International Friend,
This week USA Today featured a front page article exclaiming the huge improvements that are taking place in Ecuador due to dollarization. I am one of the greatest advocates of Ecuador and have a large commitment there myself but am skeptical about having excessive optimism too early on.
Also there have been some questions from readers about the U.S. governments “Plan Colombia” and what impact it might have on Ecuador. To get a clearer picture I asked several friends who live in Ecuador full time about Crime in Ecuador, Manta (where the U.S. military has their new base and what impact Ecuador’s assistance with the U.S. against Colombian guerillas might create.
Here is the first reply I received from a successful Ecuadorian attorney whose grandfather was President of Ecuador.
Hi, I hope you and Merri are doing well. First of all, sorry for my delay in responding. I had to urgently fly to Manta to take care of a project. anticipated.
I took your concerns with me and spoke with several knowledgeable people about them. After soaking as much information as possible, this is my opinion:
Clinton's Colombia Plan will undoubtedly have major effects on the region. This is specially true for Ecuador, that has an important border with Colombia. Colombian guerrillas may begin to target Ecuador should they sense that we are in full support of the Plan, aiding both the US and Colombia in its fight. But I very much doubt that they will in Ecuador get to be more than a shadow of what they are in Colombia.
We have to distinguish two levels of possible guerrilla involvement in Ecuador. One of them through infiltration while fleeing the Colombian army, or for rest, or for procurement of some logistics. The other, through deliberate attacks and actions.
We have been having the first cases for some time now. Some people believe some sort of unwritten non-aggression pact has existed for many years between Colombian guerrillas and Ecuador's army. The fact is, we have been in relative peace for many, many years. In any case and whatever the reason for this, things are likely to change over the next months and years.
Ecuador seems to be gearing up for the possible scenarios which may come. I trust our armed forces to be much better than the Colombian, and our territory is considerably smaller. Remember we held our positions against the Peruvian army in 1995, inflicting it with great damage. This war was fought in the same terrain where guerilla warfare is fought, in the jungle.
Ecuador can not hide its actual support of the Colombia Plan, and the Manta Base may be an example for this, but it is keeping as low a profile as it can, so as to not stir things up with the guerrilla.
I believe the best thing that can be done regarding drug trafficking and guerrilla is to give it an all out fight, with a very intelligent and coherent plan. Hiding will lead our countries nowhere.
I trust that the implementation of the Colombia Plan would weaken drug traffickers and thus the guerrilla.
It is very probable that Ecuador will see increased guerrilla activity in the next few months and years. But I trust our army and law enforcement will keep it at bay as much as possible. In any case, I don't expect it to be nearly as evident or as harsh a presence as it is in Colombia.
All of Ecuador is suffering from increased levels of criminality since some years ago. And Manta is no exception to this. The situation of insecurity in Ecuador is much less dramatic than in Colombia or Peru, but nonetheless quite worrisome.
In Manta, the same as in other cities, sufficient care and common sense should be exercised. Being careless may be asking for trouble and the same is true for the rest of Ecuador, and for almost anywhere else in the World for that matter.
I know many plans are being implemented specifically for Manta. Recently crime enforcement has had big successful strikes against organized criminal bands operating there and throughout. Manta is getting much more control than other cities, the US Base being one of the reasons for this.
As Ecuador is receiving a huge bonus in its budget due to high oil prices, this surplus may allow us to better reinforce security.
I don't see Colombian guerrillas striking at Ecuador right now thus giving us a direct reason to hit them back and involve ourselves much more against them than we may already be.
Personally I don't believe either the Colombia Plan our relative level of insecurity should come in the way of good investing in Ecuador. With the exercise of common sense you should not be exposing yourself any more than elsewhere.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any doubts.
Tomorrow I’ll send replies to this question from businessmen and farmers in Ecuador and share my thinking about this as well. Until then, Good investing!