June 7, 2024

U.S. designates Ecuadorian drug gang Los Lobos and its leader

On June 6, 2024, in response to ongoing gang violence in Ecuador, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Los Lobos, Ecuador’s largest drug trafficking organization, and its leader Wilmer Geovanny Chavarria Barre.  OFAC reported that these designations build upon its February 2024 designation of Los Choneros, a prominent drug gang in Ecuador.  According to OFAC, the mounting gang violence in Ecuador recently caused Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa to declare a state of emergency in seven of the country’s 24 provinces.  Noboa also recently designated 22 Ecuadorian gangs, including Los Lobos and Los Choneros, as terrorist groups.  According to OFAC, the gang violence in Ecuador increased significantly following the assassination of a Los Choneros leader in 2020, which left a power vacuum that led to coordinated attacks between rival gangs and prison riots responsible for the deaths of scores of inmates.  Los Lobos has also reportedly been accused of planning the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, a politician who ran for president of Ecuador in 2023.

The designations were imposed pursuant to Executive Order 14059 for engaging in activities that materially contributed to the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production.  As a result of the designations, all property and interests in property of the designated persons within the United States or within the possession or control of a U.S. person are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions involving a designated person.  Entities owned 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.

U.S. Department of Treasury Press Release