February 11, 2024

US sanctions Ecuadorian drug gang and its leader

On February 7, 2024, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Los Choneros, one of Ecuador’s most violent criminal organizations, and its leader José Adolfo Macías Villamar.  OFAC reported that Los Choneros controls key cocaine trafficking routes through Ecuador with the help of Sinaloa Cartel – operations that have allegedly been run from inside state and federal penitentiaries throughout the country.  The sanctions were imposed in response to the latest wave of gang-driven violence, including prison riots and gang-related kidnappings and bombings, that began in January 2024 just days after Ecuadorian authorities discovered that Macías Villamar had escaped from a maximum-security prison.  According to OFAC, the steep rise in gang violence caused the Government of Ecuador to declare a 60-day state of emergency.

The new 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