Ecuadorian banana shipment contained cocaine worth $330 million

Screenshot of cocaine discovered on February 26, 2023, in the Guayaquil port

In a shipment of bananas headed for Belgium, Ecuadorian police discovered nearly 8.8 tonnes of cocaine.

The drugs would have been worth about $330 million (£275 million), according to police commander Fausto Salinas, had they arrived at their intended location.

For cocaine produced in nearby Colombia and Peru, Ecuador has emerged as one of the main transit nations.

More than 200 tonnes of the drug were found in the Andean nation last year, with most of it found in the port of Guayaquil.

Smugglers frequently attempt to bury their illicit cargo among the fruit that is shipped from Guayaquil to locations all over the world because Ecuador is the world's largest exporter of bananas.

This most recent haul was discovered in a container containing banana cases going to Belgium.

The seizure occurs at the same time that Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden and European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson are traveling to Colombia and Ecuador.

In the fight against drug trafficking, the two officials want to increase cooperation with the two South American countries.

In recent years, Belgium has become the nation where the largest amounts of cocaine have been found within the European Union, with the port of Antwerp serving as the primary entry point for the illicit drug.

The "growing flow of cocaine now threatens the entire European Union," according to Alexis Gosdeel, director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, earlier this month.

He expressed deep concern that the growing EU cocaine market would result in an increase in violence and corruption against government agencies and institutions.

As strong Mexican cartels have infiltrated local gangs to take over the lucrative business, violence associated with drug smuggling has increased dramatically in Ecuador.

Numerous people have been killed in fights between rival gangs inside prisons, which are overcrowded.

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