Monday, April 21, 2008

Can Correa control Ecuador's Military?

Not yet, says an article in the NY Times by Simon Romero.

PhD Economist turned firebrand President Rafael Correa began his term by trying to buy the military's support with:

"salary raises for soldiers; a 25 percent increase in the 2008 military budget, to $920 million; and lucrative highway construction contracts for companies controlled by military officials."

Yes you read that right. As it turns out the Ecuadorian military is old school:

Unlike the armed forces of most other countries in Latin America, Ecuador’s military has retained substantial economic might since a military junta transferred power to a civilian government in the 1970s. Through holding companies, the armed forces still control TAME, one of Ecuador’s largest airlines, and enterprises in the munitions, shrimp fishing, construction, clothing, flower farming and hydroelectric industries, making the military one of the country’s most powerful economic group.

Despite his efforts, the military is still too close to the US and Colombia for Correa's comfort:

Still, tensions persist over his clash with top generals, which emerged after Colombian forces raided a Colombian rebel camp in Ecuador last month. The raid against the rebel group, the Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, put Ecuador and its ally Venezuela on edge with Colombia. Twenty-five people were killed, including Franklin Aisalla, an Ecuadorean operative for the group, known as the FARC.

The face-off between Ecuador and Colombia ended at a summit meeting in the Dominican Republic, but it has begun again over revelations that Ecuadorean intelligence officials had been tracking Mr. Aisalla, information that was shared not with the president, but apparently with Colombian forces and their American military advisers.

The leak became evident when video and photo images surfaced in Colombia and Ecuador showing Mr. Aisalla meeting with FARC commanders.

“I, the president of the republic, found out about these operations by reading the newspaper,” a visibly indignant Mr. Correa said last week during an interview in the capital, Quito, with foreign correspondents. “This is not something we can tolerate. He added that he planned to restructure the intelligence agencies to give him greater direct control over them.

In a rebuke of senior military officials, Mr. Correa named as defense minister his personal secretary, Javier Ponce, who was an outspoken critic of the armed forces in his previous careers as a poet and an editorial writer at some of Ecuador’s largest newspapers.

While I am not Correa's biggest fan, I am with him on this one. Civilian control of the military is a must, (as is, I might add, *not* having the military run large civilian companies). I'd rather see the craziest policies coming out of a democracy than excellent ones coming after a coup from a military junta.


John Thacker said...

Civilian control of the military is a must, (as is, I might add having the military run large civilian companies).

Surely, Angus, there's a "not" missing from there, yes? "having the military not run large civilian companies" or some such?

Angus said...

thanks John: you are right and I have edited teh post to correct the mistake.

bathmate said...

thanks for your great posting