Syndicate content Link to our RSS feed / Link to our podcast feed

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ecuador and Colombia begin dialogue

Yesterday, Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermúdez and Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconí held their first official meeting since diplomatic ties between the two countries were cut in 2008 after a Colombian attack on a FARC camp in Ecuadorian territory. The meeting between the two counterparts took place in the New York offices of the Council of Americas and lasted four hours.

Colombia and Ecuador have not had ambassadors in each other's capitals since March 2008, after a Colombian Army raid a mile inside Ecuadorian territory killed a top leader of Colombia's FARC guerrilla group.

The meeting yesterday was the beginning of a long process of reopening diplomatic ties between Colombia and Ecuador. While both foreign ministers are in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, they will hold multiple meetings in order to "consolidate the process of dialogue."

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Falconí described the meeting as "frank, constructive, and open."

Colombian Foreign Minister Bermúdez told the press that "we have had the opportunity to have a long, calm, frank, and sincere meeting with the foreign minister of Ecuador ... and we have initiated a process to explore mechanisms that will allow us to achieve a normalization of relations."

Tuesday's meeting between the Colombian and Ecuadorian foreign ministers was intended to be a working meeting where both parties could put their demands on the table, develop mechanisms for future dialogue, and assess the diplomatic environment between the two delegations. In a press conference prior to the meeting, Colombian Foreign Minister Bermúdez said, "we have the will to advance in the way possible, but what we do not have is to generate false expectations. It is important that each country, that has its own considerations, puts them on the table and is able to advance. We will see."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

South America-Africa Summit this weekend

This weekend 54 heads of state and other officials from African nations and 12 from South American nations will arrive in Margarita, Venezuela for the second South America–Africa Summit, headed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and co-chaired by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. The summit is meant to bolster to cooperation and economic ties between the two regions in a variety of areas, including education, energy, communication and the global economic crisis. Cultural festivities began this week in Caracas to prepare for the upcoming summit.

Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister for Africa, Reinaldo Bolivar, told IPS that Africa "has linked up as a region and has sought cooperation collectively, mostly with the European Union, but in recent years also with China, India, Russia, Iran and, of course, South America, where it is finding open doors because of the new progressive governments."

Bolivar also stressed that this is the first “South–South” summit in the world. Among others, participants will include Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The first summit was held in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in 2006, and the resulting declaration called for reform at the United Nations, commitments to educate men and teenage boys about the rights of women and girls, commitments by South American nations to invest in Africa and assist in agricultural development and the alleviation of hunger.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ecuador and the U.S. sign a new counternarcotics agreement

During the last week of August, Ecuador signed a counternarcotics and organized crime agreement with the United States, renewing cooperation between the two countries after it was suspended last February. The new agreement includes the exchange of information between the two governments and training for special police units, which will be carried out by the government of Ecuador and in accordance with its laws, in addition to $7 million in U.S. aid to help combat narcotrafficking and organized crime. The agreement also places emphasis on the prevention of drug consumption.

The signing of this agreement came seven months after Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa kicked U.S. Embassy officials out of the country for "meddling" with counter-drug police units after four officials of the Ecuadorian National Police were accused of turning over classified computers and information to the United States. As a result, Correa immediately suspended any counternarcotics agreements Ecuador had with the United States.

The timing of the new agreements is also viewed as significant since it came only a few days before the UNASUR summit in Argentina, where President Correa criticized the pending U.S.-Colombia military base agreement. President Correa perhaps used the reestablishment of cooperation with the United States' counternarcotics strategy to demonstrate that his dislike of the new U.S.-Colombia military deal was not linked to any sort of support for narcotrafficking or guerrilla groups.

According to Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconí, the previous agreements with the United States included "informal agreements" that should have been "transparent and on the table." The new agreement with the United States is an effort to "make the information transparent so the public knows what we are doing."

Below is a translation of an article, "A turn in the counternarcotics agreement with the United States," from Ecuador's El Comercio, which outlines the details of Ecuador's prior counternarcotics agreement with the United States in comparison to the newly signed agreement.

Ecuador and the United States reoriented the goal of its collaboration in the fight against drugs. Prior to August 25th, the goal was the guarantee the annual rate of detained and confiscated drugs in exchange for resources.

This policy became official in an agreement that was signed in 2003 during the government of Lucio Gutierrez and was an update of an agreement signed in 2002. In this document, Ecuador agreed to increase drug seizures by 10% each year; arms, ammunition, and illegal chemical seizures by 15%; and people detained for narcotrafficking and linked crimes by 12%.

The consequences were positive and negative. On the one hand, Ecuador is one of the countries with the best results in counternarcotics control. For example, from 2005 to September of this year 178.9 tons of drugs were confiscated.

However, Ecuadorian prisons were full of people accused of trafficking drugs. According to the Office of the Ombudsman, they made up 60% of people detained in the country. "The police were excessive and captured small dealers and consumers to justify the agreements," said Ernesto Pazmiño, the Ombudsman.

Since his arrival to power, Rafael Correa made announcements that would change the counternarcotics strategy of the United States. For example, he suspended all of the agreements last February, after denouncing CIA interference in the Intelligence and Anti-narcotics units of the police.

This decision brought Ecuadorian and U.S. representatives to the negotiating table. Ecuador went with the mission of not losing the aid, but to make all of the agreements transparent and to reorient them.

Last week, three agreements were signed and they are public: the Program of Anti-contraband Investigation Units, another program of Sensitive Investigations and, the most important, an amendment to the Cooperation Agreement to Control the Production of Illegal Drugs that was signed in 2003.

The new agreement places emphasis in the prevention of the consumption of drugs and in the control of money laundering. Martha Youth, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy, assured that money laundering was taken into account because it is a worldwide concern.

Also, they took into account other crimes such as the trafficking and smuggling of persons, which have increased in recent years in the country.

Youth said that the negotiation formed a part of the normal process, because whenever an amendment is carried out, each party proposes reforms and evaluation systems. Therefore in this agreement, although rates are not specifically discussed, the improvement of counterdrug control, money laundering, and trafficking and smuggling of persons is mentioned. This evaluation will occur annually and each party "will define the parameters and methodology used to carry out the projects."

Domingo Paredes, of the National Council on Drugs and Pyschotropic Substances (Consejo Nacional de Sustancias Psicotropicas y Estupefacientes), agrees with the changes. Before these agreements they were given "through frames, under the principle that it had to do with a sensitive subject for security... But this gives attention to the faults in the control of resources and objectives."

Now, adds Paredes, everyone can access the documents and review them. "Although you have to understand that there will be information, like the names of agents, that cannot be revealed in order to not give them away."

Within the new agreements, the United States agrees to offer economic assistance to the police units of the Police and the Armed Forces. Additionally, they will collaborate in the formation and training of personnel with instructors and resources. "This is very important, because the resources that are given to the Ecuadorian police are limited," says Joel Loaiza, the director of the National Police Counternarcotics division.

As the other party, Ecuador has to guarantee that the personnel who make up these units are vetted. In this plan they also agreed to create two new elite teams of the Police: the Anti-contraband and -trafficking unit; and the Sensitive Investigations Unit.

They must be made up of trained personnel. One requirement is a polygraph test that demonstrates the competence and trustworthiness of the candidate for secure management of information.

Also, there will be an analysis of drug consumption and a study and verification of its causes; it will also demand that all applications are voluntary and its candidates sign a legal declaration of their goods and financial situation.

The police will be in charge of identifying and qualifying the candidates that will be a part of the special investigation units. Loaiza believes that these definitions are a good indication for fighting narcotrafficking, since "it proves that both governments want to avoid that bad elements make up the ranks and involve themselves in corrupt acts."

Monday, May 4, 2009

A spotlight turns onto Chevron lawsuit in Ecuador

Over the past week, a spotlight has turned onto an ongoing lawsuit against U.S. oil company Chevron-Texaco before a court in Ecuador. The Washington Post, NPR and 60 Minutes have all run stories on the case against Chevron (who bought Texaco in 2001 and inherited the lawsuit) and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing last week on "Indigenous Communities, Environmental Degradation and International Human Rights Standards," where oil contamination in Ecuador, in addition to Nigeria and West Papua, was a major topic of discussion.

The lawsuit was originally filed by indigenous and campesino Ecuadorians in a New York District Court in 1993 but, according to NPR, "Chevron argued that the case be moved to Ecuador, saying that Ecuadorian courts were impartial and professional." In 2003, proceedings began in Ecuador, in the small Amazonian city of Lago Agrio, (the town was founded by Texaco in the 1970s when oil production began in the region, named after the town of Sour Lake, Texas, where Texaco got its start). Today, Chevron is arguing that Ecuador's judicial system is "corrupt and politicized," according to Silvia Garrigo, Chevron's manager of global issues and policy.

This change of posture seems to coincide with the impression that Chevron appears likely to lose the case in Ecuador. Especially after the court-appointed environmental expert, Richard Cabrera, sided with the plaintiffs in his report. Cabrera has assessed damages at up to $27.3 billion, "dwarfing the $3.9 billion awarded against ExxonMobil for the 1989 spill in Alaska," according to Juan Forero of the Washington Post.

Yet according to Chevron, "in the thousands of soil and water samples that we have taken in the Amazon, there has been no detection of any type of toxin that is not naturally occurring in the environment, and that is dangerous to human health or the environment." Silvia Garrigo continues to explain this to 60 Minutes' Scott Pelley by comparing the oil that remains in the water and the soil of Ecuador's Amazon to the makeup on her face, saying that "I have make up on, and there's naturally occurring oil on my face. Doesn't mean that I'm going to get sick from it."

While the final verdict on whether or not Chevron is guilty of spilling and dumping millions of gallons of oil and production wastes into the Ecuadorian Amazon is dependent on the decision of the Lago Agrio based judge, Juan Nuñez, the hearing last week made the point that regardless of who is culpable, a humanitarian and environmental emergency is taking place in the Ecuadorian Amazon and affecting the thousands of people who live there - causing cancer, skin rashes, and other health problems, as well as killing off native species and harming the traditional livelihoods of many indigenous communities whose ancestral lands have been overtaken by oil companies and the towns built up around the oil industry.

As pointed out during the first panel of the hearing last week, there are various human rights instruments, including the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, under which the rights of communities affected by oil pollution should be upheld. The witnesses noted that even the most basic rights, such as the right to shelter, the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to health, are being violated by oil contamination. However, how to address this violation of rights is a difficult question to answer.

Potential measures that could be taken, all brought up at the hearing, included more regulation and monitoring on the part of the transnational corporation's home state or country, ratification of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the U.S., and increased aid to affected communities, such as those in the Ecuadorian Amazon, to address its immediate and emergency humanitarian needs.

CIP staff traveled to Ecuador last November, where they witnessed much of the environmental degradation and health problems caused by the incredibly large amounts of oil contamination that remains in communities surrounding Lago Agrio, Ecuador. Regardless of who is at fault, a humanitarian emergency exists there and steps must be taken to help those in need. Photos from our trip can be found on Flickr here and here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ecuador's Humanitarian Emergency: The Spillover of Colombia's Conflict

Download the report: (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Over the past nine years, an estimated 300,000 Colombian refugees have crossed their country's border with Ecuador, fleeing persecution, threats, disappearances, murders and deliberate displacement by the parties to Colombia's long conflict. In November 2008, staff from the Center for International Policy accompanied Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) on a four-day visit to Ecuador's northeastern borderlands. We found the humanitarian crisis to be more severe than anticipated, and the need for action - from the U.S. government as well as international humanitarian organizations - more urgent than is generally recognized.

The Center for International Policy's new report, "Ecuador's Humanitarian Emergency: The Spillover of Colombia's Conflict," documents the consequences of the spillover of Colombia's conflict into Ecuadorian territory and the extent of the humanitarian crisis in Ecuador's border provinces - Esmeraldas, Carchi and Sucumbíos. The Ecuadorian state's presence historically has been minimal in the border region, yet the influx of hundreds of thousands of Colombian refugees - 85 percent of whom remain close to the border - has drastically worsened living conditions and stressed social services. And the fact that Colombian refugees live among the Ecuadorian population and not in refugee camps makes it difficult for humanitarian agencies, such as UNHCR, to extend their services to the entire population in need - not to mention the 250,000 Colombian refugees who remain "invisible" and therefore out of the scope of UNHCR's assistance.

After spending time in Ecuador, Rep. McGovern told his colleagues on the floor of the House of Representatives that "Colombia's war is literally bleeding - violently - in Ecuador." The CIP report offers six short- and medium-term recommendations for addressing Ecuador's humanitarian crisis and ensuring the well-being of both the Colombian refugees in need of protection and the Ecuadorian citizens living near the border. These recommendations include:

1) The international community, including humanitarian NGOs, UN agencies and foreign governments, including the United States, must provide immediate emergency humanitarian assistance to the refugee population in Ecuador.

2) Colombia must address the needs of communities being displaced by violence within its territory, through "integral reparations" for the conflict's victims as well as through full compliance with the guidelines set out in Colombia's Constitutional Court decision T-025.

3) Social and development assistance must be provided to entire communities that receive refugees in order to cover the urgent need, among refugees and residents alike, for basic infrastructure, health, education, and a state presence in general.

4) The United States should increase its commitment to Plan Ecuador and similar Ecuadorian governmental efforts through Economic Support Funds and Development Assistance.

5) U.S. contributions for Fiscal Year 2010 through the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) program of the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), and through the contribution to UNHCR for the Western Hemisphere, should at least double over 2009 levels.

6) Assistance to protect populations from armed groups and crime, strictly conditioned on human rights performance, should be provided to the border region.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Speculation Continues on Relocation of Manta Air Base

At the end of July 2008, Ecuador formally notified the United States that it will not renew the United States' ten-year agreement to use the Manta air base as a "Forward Operating Location" when it expires in November 2009. The United States has therefore "officially" known of the need to find a new location for the air base for six months and "unofficially" has been aware of its potential closing since Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa's election in 2006. Yet no final decision has been made about where to relocate the base.

It now falls on the Obama administration to decide where to station the AWACS, P-3 and other sophisticated aircraft that were carrying out drug surveillance missions from Manta. Despite the Colombian government's firm denial of the possibility that these assets might move to Colombian territory, speculation on the matter persists in Colombia.

Below is a translation of an article that appeared today in Colombia's El Espectador newspaper entitled The United States has not determined the relocation of the Manta air base, it could be in Colombia.

The U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, Heather Hodges, reiterated that her country's intention is to remove all the military personnel that have been deployed for years in Manta. This exit would possibly happen before next November.

And the United States still has not found an alternative to replace the anti-narcotics base in Manta, from where it must leave before November. As a result, since the middle of last year, the United States initiated a consultation process with various Latin American countries, among them Colombia, in order to relocate the military base that is now in Ecuador.

"What are we going to do in order to replace this possibility? We still do not know," signaled the Ambassador in Quito, Hodges.

November is the end of the contract in which Ecuador had authorized for ten years the utilization of one of its bases for the U.S. fight against drugs. President Rafael Correa did not renew the contract and promoted a constitutional prohibition that denies the existence of foreign bases on Ecuadorian territory.

"I have to highlight and recognize the immense respect the United States had for our decision (...) They have offered to remove the base in November 2009," said Correa on January 15, in his annual address to the nation.

Meanwhile, since the Colombian government became aware of the United States' hope to put the Manta base in Colombia, it has ruled out that possibility.

"There is not going to be a base in Colombia. This has already been ruled out. It is ruled out by the United States, and it is ruled out by us," said [Defense Minister Juan Manuel] Santos a few months ago.

However, in the middle of a fight against narcotrafficking, the possible installation of a military center in the country is not ruled out.

And this idea becomes more important because it would appear that the Uribe government's idea is to improve relations with the new commander-in-chief, Barack Obama.

During the government of his predecessor, George W. Bush, there was much speculation about the possible arrival of this base in Colombia, taking into account that Colombia is a strategic point of entrance to Venezuela, with whose president the United States does not have very good relations.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ecuador's New Constitution, Part 2: Sovereignty

Yesterday, we outlined the effect Ecuador's new Constitution will have on the Armed Forces and the Police. Today, we move on to the topic of sovereignty.

Not only does the new Constitution prohibit the establishment of foreign military bases or installations with military goals within its territory (think the U.S. military base in Manta), it also sets the stage for Ecuador to push for further regional integration and defense cooperation. Additionally, as laid out in the new Constitution, sovereignty will no longer be viewed solely from the territorial point of view, but it also be viewed in terms of energy, nutrition and policy.

According to El Comercio, these changes in the Constitution demonstrate that Ecuador seeks to distance itself from the United States' policies of the global war against terror and the militarization of the fight against narcotrafficking.

Below, like yesterday, is a translation of a description of what these changes in the new Constitution imply and what they mean for Ecuador.
(translated from the article in El Comercio, "Una nueva visión de soberanía")

A new vision of sovereignty

What does this imply?

A new vision of sovereignty and territorial defense will emerge with the new Constitution. Since the Government rose to power, it said that it would not extend the agreement for the use of the base at Manta by the U.S. military. This promise was celebrated by Article 5 of the constitutional project. In addition, the country will enter into a new logic of sovereignty with a strong regional charge.

The intention is to distance Ecuador from the defense doctrine of U.S. policy that consisted of a hemispheric security vision and that in the recent years has consolidated into a global practice for the fight against terrorism and the militarization of the fight against narcotrafficking. This resulted in major repercussions within the countries that make up the Andean region.

Now, the security agenda will be considered along with political and economic aspects. As a result, within a new Magna Carta it will be established that the country adopts the means to push for regional or subregional integration. This is not a process that has been created in Ecuador, but is also being carried out in European and Asian countries that transformed their nationalist vision and unified into a block in order to negotiate in accordance with their weaknesses and strengths.

As a result the new vision of sovereignty will be multidimensional. It no longer will have only one concept, the territory, and it will instead span themes such as policy and economy.

What does this mean?

The project of the new Constitution presents a transversal model of sovereignty, since it is no longer analyzed only from the territorial point of view, but includes the political, energetic, and even, nutritional point of view. From the territorial point of view the Montecristi proposal establishes the expressive prohibition of the establishment of foreign military bases or installations with military goals within the country.

Also, it signals a more extensive concept of Ecuadorian territory than the Magna Carta of 1998. In article 4 it is expressed that territory is a geographic and historical unit of natural, social and cultural dimensions. This territory makes up the continental and maritime space, the adjacent islands, the territorial sea, the Galapagos Archipelago, the soil, the submarine platform, and the overlying continental, insular and maritime space. Its limits are determined by current treaties. In addition, Ecuador's territory is inalienable, irreducible, and inviolable. No one may make an attempt against the national unity and encourage succession. Also, the concept that the Armed Forces are charged with protecting the sovereignty and territorial defense of the nation.

But, within the project of the new Magna Carta, a policy of defense and territorial sovereignty will have a new base that pushes for the union of the countries in the region, which will signify a distancing from the defense doctrine of the United States.

Sovereignty in the Project

Art. 4. The territory is a geographic and historical unit of natural, social and cultural dimensions. It makes up the continental and maritime space, the adjacent islands, the territorial sea, the Galapagos Archipelago, the soil, the submarine platform, the overlying continental, insular and maritime space. Its limits are determined by current treaties.

Art. 5. Ecuador is a territory of peace. The establishment of foreign military bases and installations with military goals are not permitted. National military bases may not be handed over to foreign militaries or security forces.

Art. 57. Various rights for indigenous communities and nationalities are recognized. Among them, the limitation of military activities in their territories, according to the Law.

Art. 158. The Armed Forces and the Police are institutions for the protection of rights, liberties and guarantees for the citizens. The Armed Forces has as its fundamental mission the defense of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Art. 416. In number 5 it is established that Ecuador recognizes the rights of distinct pueblos that coexist within the States, especially in promoting mechanisms that express, preserve and protect the diverse character of their societies and rejects racism, xenophobia, and all other forms of discrimination.

Art. 423. The integration, especially with Latin American and Caribbean countries, will be a strategic objective of the State. Number 6 of this article establishes that there will be a common defense policy that will consolidate a strategic alliance to strengthen the sovereignty of the countries and of the region.

Sovereignty in the 1998 Constitution

Art. 2. The Ecuadorian territory is inalienable and irreducible. It is made of the Real Audiencia de Quito with the modifications introduced in current treaties, the adjacent islands, the Galapagos Archipelago, the territorial sea, the subsoil and the overlying space...

Art. 5. Ecuador may form associations with one or more States for the promotion and defense of its national interests.

Art. 183. The Armed Forces has as its mission the conservation of the national sovereignty, the defense of the integrity and the independence of the State

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The redefined role of Ecuador's military and police under the new Constitution

On Sunday, Ecuadorians went to the polls to vote on the country's 20th Constitution, which has been one of President Rafael Correa's main projects since he was elected two years ago. With 96.26% of the votes counted, the 'yes' vote has 64.04% of the vote and the 'no' 28.01%.

As has been reported widely in the international press, the new Constitution concentrates power in the hands of the President, gives the President the option of running for reelection - for a total of two consecutive four year terms -, permits civil unions of homosexual couples, puts the powers of the Central Bank into the hands of the executive, and, for the first time in the world of constitutions, grants nature an inalienable right to be protected.

What hasn't been reported is how the new constitution will affect the military, the police, civilian control, and sovereignty - topics that are of main interest to Just the Facts. For the next few days, we will outline on this blog how the new Constitution will affect these aspects of security and defense in Ecuador, courtesy of a series published by Ecuador's El Comercio called "With a microscope on the Constitution."

Today, we will start with the military and the police.

Military and Police have the right to vote
(translated from the article "Los uniformados podrán votar")

What does this imply?

The constitutional reform project eliminates the concept of the "Public Force" and clearly defines the functions of the Armed Forces as an entity in defense of sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition, it defines the authority of the Police as an organism in charge of public order and citizen security. The responsibility to guarantee the legal system of the nation is not included in the new functions of the Armed Forces.

Within political rights, the legislative project determines that the members of the Armed Forces and the Police will have the voluntary right to vote. Nevertheless, it does not signal the control mechanism for order during electoral processes.

Military service will no longer be obligatory under the framework of respect for diversity and rights. Additionally, voluntary recruitment will be accompanied by training programs in different occupational areas.

Those who voluntarily enlist for military service will not be designated for zones of high military risk. In regard to members of the Police, they will have a specialized formation in accordance with human rights. In both cases, a system of merit-based promotions will be established, with criteria for equality and gender.

In application of the principle of legal unity, the police and the military will be judged by the citizen justice system if a crime is committed.

What does this mean?

The institutions of the Armed Forces and the Police will be differentiated, with specific and complementary functions under the framework of respect for democracy and human rights. The legislative project will avoid having the high-command of the military decide what circumstances constitute a threat to the legal integrity of the nation.

The members of the Armed Forces and the Police will have the ability to exercise their political right to a voluntary vote within the electoral process; however, there are restrictions with respect to the possibility of becoming a candidate in a popular election.

Any Ecuadorian citizen will be able to voluntarily enlist for military service. The legislative project prohibits any form of forced recruitment and guarantees the security of the volunteer members, although it does not specify what zones are considered to be of high military risk.

Additionally, the project guarantees the enlistment of both men and women to the Armed Forces and the Police without any type of discrimination.

The Police is defined as an institution to service the community with a focus on crime prevention to guarantee the security of citizens.

If a member of the Armed Forces or the Police commits a crime, he or she will be judged in a court specialized in the subject of military and police and integrated into the judicial system.

The project:

Art. 62. The vote will be accessible to people between 16 and 18 years old, over 65 years old, Ecuadorians who live abroad, members of the Armed Forces and the Police.

Art. 113. Members of the Armed Forces and the National Police who are in active service cannot be candidates for popular election.

Art. 147. It is the power and the right of the President of the Republics to exercise maximum authority over the Armed Forces and the National Police and to designate the members of the High Command of the Military and Police.

Art. 152. Active members of the Armed Forces and the National Police cannot be Ministers of the State.

Art. 158. The Armed Forces and the National Police are institutions that protect the rights, liberties and guarantees of the citizens. The Armed Forces have the fundamental mission to defined the sovereignty and integrity of the territory. Internal protection and the maintenance of public order is the responsibility of the National Police.

Art. 159. The Armed Forces and the National Police will be obedient and follow the chain of command, and will comply with their mission with the strict submission to civil power and to the Constitution.

Art. 160. Those aspiring to a military or police career will not be discriminated against for their enlistment. The law establishes the specific requirements for those cases in which special skills, knowledge or capacity is required. The members will be subjected to a system of merit-based promotion, with criteria for gender equality.

Art. 161. Civil-military service is voluntary. This service will be carried out in the framework of respect for diversity and rights, accompanied by an alternative training . . .

The current law

Art. 27. Popular vote is universal, equal, direct and secret; it is obligatory for those who can read and write, optional for those who are illiterate and for those over 65 years old. Active members of the "Public Force" will not be able to use this right.

Art. 101. Active members of the public force may not be candidates in the popular election.

Art. It is the power and the right of the President of the Republic to exercise the maximum authority over the public force, designate the members of the Miltary High Command . . .

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's official - Ecuador will not renew the United States's lease on the Manta air base

Ecuador's non-renewal of the U.S. presence at its Manta air base is not breaking news. President Rafael Correa has promised to close the U.S. counter-drug "Forward Operating Location" since he began his campaign for president in 2006, and its potential closing has been in the news for months. However, it was made official yesterday when Ecuador's Foreign Ministry formally notified the U.S Embassy of the decision to not renew the lease when it expires in 2009.

The Manta air base has been used by the United States since a ten-year agreement was signed in 1999. U.S. personnel and contractors launch surveillance flights that have been responsible for about 60 percent of drug seizures in the eastern Pacific, reports the Associated Press. However, Ecuador has been concerned that not only does the U.S. military presence in its territory threaten the country's sovereignty, it also threatens to unwillingly entangle Ecuador in the conflict in Colombia and the regional war on drugs.

According to the Foreign Ministry's statement yesterday, U.S. surveillance flights will end in August 2009 and all foreign personnel must withdrawal from the Manta air base by the end of November 2009, when the U.S. facilities there will be turned over to the Ecuadorian Air Force.

While it has previously been reported that the United States hoped to move the base to a new location in either Colombia or Peru, U.S. military officials have recently said that they do not plan to set up an alternative base.

Without the Manta air base, it will be interesting to see how the U.S. government arranges to host the AWACS, P-3 and other sophisticated aircraft that were carrying out surveillance from Manta. Rumors continue about a new base or other hosting arrangement in Colombia, while there is some possibility that surveillance flights may simply increase at the two other existing Forward Operating Locations in El Salvador and the Netherlands Antilles.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ecuador's Defense Minister, Gustavo Larrea, visits Washington

Yesterday, Ecuador's Minister of Internal and External Security, Gustavo Larrea, was in Washington to meet with various members of Congress, the media, and to speak at an event hosted by CSIS and the Inter-American Dialogue. It seems that Larrea's visit was timed such that he could promote Ecuador's new Constitution, approved by the constituent assembly yesterday and up for referendum vote in September, and to make clear that while Ecuador hopes to maintain bilateral relations with the United States, it also will uphold its sovereignty. You can listen to Larrea's presentation at the CSIS and Dialogue event (in Spanish) here.

Below are translations of excerpts from two media sources, The Associated Press and El Nuevo Empresario, covering Larrea's visit.

The Associated Press, "Ecuador wants the United States' help, but will deny it the base in Manta" by Nestor Ikeda

The Ecuadorian Minister of Internal and External Security said on Thursday that his country needs the cooperation of the United States in investments and to combat drugs, but it will continue with its plan to deny, at the start of next year, the United States' use of the Manta air base for its interdiction flights.

"United States would not accept another country's air base in its territory, we won't either," said Gustavo Larrea. "We are a nation and we are sovereign."

...

He indicated that he came to ask for U.S. help in the implementation of Plan Ecuador, for border development; the fight against narcotrafficking, the renewal of the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) that expires in December, and business investments, but "with total respect for our sovereignty."

...

According to Larrea, in the case of the U.S. exit from Manta, Ecuador was being stigmatized because the government was preparing the maritime port for operations of high quality Asian commercial ships.

"These improvements are part of multiplying our trade relations with the world's communities," he declared. "We make them with absolute pride and absolute sovereignty."

Larrea explained that Ecuador was working with the United States "in a transition" so that it can move its two interdiction aircrafts to another place and recalled that his country, despite having been recognized by the Department of State as a leader in the capture of drugs, was "the least favored in international cooperation," of only some three million dollars. [We have no idea how Larrea derives this figure, as our database shows the United States granting Ecuador an estimated $52.3 million this year.]

"I have not come to ask for a dollar more of cooperation," he affirmed. "I have come with dignity to say what we are doing and to say that a base (of the United States) is not acceptable in our territory because our country does not want it."

He explained that the U.S. exit was not the result of expulsion, but because in 2009 the 10 year contract that was signed by the two governments expires.

"This does not mean that we are not going to continue fighting against narcotrafficking," he said. "We will continue our efforts. But we need this airport (in Manta)."

According to Larrea, Ecuador will take on the work of interdiction of drugs, for which they have bought two unmanned planes and dozens of high velocity boats.

El Nuevo Empresario, "Gustavo Larrea, Minister of Internal and External Security completes a tight agenda in the United States"

At the House of Representatives, he [Larrea] met with Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel [D-New York], Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, with Republican Rep. Dan Burton [R-Indiana], minority head of the same subcommittee, and with Rep. Nita Lowey [D-New York], Chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations.

Minister Larrea made known to the representatives the process of change that the country faces in a democratic and peaceful environment, which is reflected in the elaboration of a new political constitution that will be put up for public consideration in September through a referendum.

At the same time, the minister referred to the specificities of Ecuador, a country that does not follow any foreign model and is independent from other Latin American models and that is living its own process of change; he referred to the friendly relations that exist between the two counties, expressed above all by the U.S. Embassy in Quito.

During the conference at CSIS, he referred to the role developed by the Ecuadorian Government in the fight against drug trafficking and the control and protection of the border with Colombia, where the country has put into practice "Plan Ecuador" as a policy of peaceful borders and community development in the provinces bordering Colombia."