U.S.A. Anti Narcotics Operations to use Galapagos Airport

The Ecuadorian Minister of Defense, Oswaldo Jarrín, announced today at a press conference that the San Cristobal airport in Galapagos would be enlarged and improved to accommodate U.S. aircraft engaged in anti-narcotic operations in the region.  The works would be financed by the U.S. and would allow for Orion P3 and AWAC aircraft to fly in and out of Galapagos for refuelling and re-supplying. 

"I have mentioned that Galapagos can be considered as an aircraft carrier for Ecuador, it is our natural aircraft carrier, because, it assures us permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and it’s located 1,000 kilometers from our coasts" explained the Minister. 

“The United States is going to take charge of improving the conditions (of the airport), especially in terms of refueling infrastructure, and we will see in the future what else we can establish, so that the arrival is improved – something we are still discussing – but it will be payed for by the United States, and not by Ecuador” he continued.

The coastal waters along between Peru and moving up to Mexico are heavily used by drug traffickers – often disguised as fishing vessels.   They move drugs north to Colombia, Central America or Mexico from production areas in the south.  Authorities regularly apprehend traffickers and their cargo. 

"Eight tons (captured) in ten missions in two or three months is the benefit we have obtained from the agreement with the United States" the Minister said.

The minister mentioned that in view of the added pressure being placed on ship-based traffickers, there has been a recent increase in trafficking on board small planes.   

He further assured his fellow Ecuadorians that this was not going to be a U.S. military base, but only a improvement in the airport facilities which would allow for cooperative missions between Ecuador and the U.S.A. to take place, with clear protocols ensuring that all missions would be accompanied by Ecuadorian military personnel. 

San Cristobal airport is one of two airports in Galapagos that connect the islands to the mainland.  It is located just a 15 minute walk from the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.  Both the airport and the town are second in importance compared to the Baltra airport, where most visitors to Galapagos arrive, and Puerto Ayora, which has about three times as many residents.

During World War II, the U.S.A. established a large military base on Baltra Island with the intention of patrolling the eastern tropical Pacific ocean against possible attacks by the Japanese - with an eye on protecting the Panama Canal.   Many vestiges of that military base can still be seen today on Baltra Island.