Ecuadorian Defense Minister Major General (Retired) Luis Lara Jaramillo knows his country’s armed forces firsthand. During his 38-year military career, he led several special operations groups and served as an infantry commander and defense attaché at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Chile, among other roles, until that he attains the highest military post as head of the joint command of the armed forces. between 2019 and 2021.
Today, Minister Lara seeks to ensure that the Armed Forces have the technological, human and infrastructural resources to fulfill their mission. He met Dialogo in his cabinet to discuss his priorities.
Dialog: During your inauguration ceremony on April 26, 2022, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said: “I have full confidence in your positive contributions to the security of the country. What are your plans to ensure the safety of Ecuadorians?
Ecuadorian Defense Minister Major General (Ret.) Luis Lara Jaramillo: During a complex period for the nation, Mr. President has opted for a change of direction in the management of national defense in Ecuador, relying on a new work team with a strategic approach that considers both the main mission of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, as well as the protection of the rights, freedoms and guarantees of Ecuadorians, which is also a constitutional mandate of the Armed Forces. To this must be added responsibilities for the protection of strategic infrastructure, support for other state institutions and, above all, support for the national police in the crucial fight against drug trafficking and international organized crime.
The announcement that I made regarding the participation of the Armed Forces in the security field has considerably strengthened the confidence of Ecuadorians in the public administration to face this ruthless attack of the criminal mafias against the State and the gradual recovery peace in Ecuador.
At the same time, we are updating strategic defense planning with a 20-year perspective, which will allow Ecuador to adapt its policies to the country’s most pressing needs in terms of national defense, public security and State, as well as to implement regional strategies and international cooperation for the protection of citizens’ rights, the safeguard of the environment and the permanent search for peace at the global level.
Dialog: What progress has been made in modernizing Ecuador’s security forces?
Minister Lara: The overall proposal for adapting defense policies and strategies concerns a substantial increase in drug trafficking and organized crime activities, which have had repercussions and created an absolutely unusual situation of violence in the country. We must not lose sight of the fact that this is provoked violence, it is a reaction of the mafias against the State who realize that control measures produce results.
We are working in an accelerated manner to update national defense policies, which will determine the 2040 Strategic Plan of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces which proposes the development of joint and specific strategic capabilities of the Armed Forces, promotes collaboration and complementarity between institutions, promotes a culture of defense and security in society, and maintains a cooperative foreign policy for the defense of peace. This framework will guide the operational plans of the Forces until the end of this government.
One of the novelties is the definition of the design of the force based on the use of flexible joint units composed of well-trained professional soldiers, anchored in an ethic of responsibility for the accomplishment of the mission. The policies emphasize that the armed forces are an institution that coordinates national integration; that they are a school of citizenship, reinforcing the values of national identity and unity. They emphasize the new missions of the armed forces in the context of security and defence. This makes the implementation of a modernization plan for national defense institutions urgent, the first phase of which will be carried out within the ministry itself. The main objective is the Armed Forces Reinforcement Plan, which will provide them with the necessary capabilities required by current regional and global strategic scenarios and ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of defense in the medium and long term.
Dialog: What is the purpose of the newly created Joint Task Force as a new security and defense strategy?
Minister Lara: The creation of the joint working groups is part of the strategy to provide emergent solutions to the problems of drug trafficking and crime in specific border areas or at crucial points in cities. According to the constitutional norm, a state of exception must be declared so that the Armed Forces can intervene in these matters in support of the National Police, which is the institution responsible for the security of citizens and public order in the country. . Therefore, this intervention is necessarily limited in time. Regulatory reforms of the Constitution and laws are necessary for the armed forces to intervene continuously over time to deal with organized crime.
The results of the joint working groups in Esmeraldas and Guayas are positive; significant reductions in violence have been achieved in the intervention areas. However, these results will have to be evaluated once the mission is completed and the police are left in charge of security in these areas.
Dialog: How is Ecuador working with neighboring countries to jointly address transnational threats?
Minister Lara: Ecuador has a strong tradition of coordinated work with other countries in the areas of political, economic or security integration. we have signed international or bilateral treaties and agreements on migration, border control, security and defense issues. We are part of all the defense and security systems of the Americas, so our policy of cooperation and integration in the field of defense and security is obvious. Relations with the armed forces of neighboring countries are fluid and framed within the framework of institutional cooperation, the exchange of information and the implementation of coordinated control operations when necessary. We can say that the current scenario is one of cooperation and goodwill between countries.
Dialog: What type of cooperation does Ecuador have with the United States in defense matters?
Minister Lara: Ecuador and the United States have always maintained excellent relations of cooperation and friendship. In 1974, the United States established a military office in the country, later called the Military Group, for liaison and cooperation with the Ecuadorian Armed Forces. Following the changes of government in 2014, they took the decision to conclude cooperation activities with the Military Group. At the beginning of 2018, we resumed collaboration with the United States Embassy to determine aspects of military cooperation in defense, thus, in October of the same year, the Office of Defense Cooperation of the Embassy of the United States emerged. From then on, we resumed the planning of cooperation in various areas: training, maintenance, logistical support, among others. For example, with the Kentucky National Guard, we have had good experience in sharing training for immediate response to any type of disaster; in another area, several exercises have been carried out this year, such as PANAMAX and UNITAS, and we are also planning the SENTINEL exercise for 2023.
Dialog: On June 6, 2022, together with the United States, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama, Ecuador signed a Memorandum of Understanding in favor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor. What is the importance of this signature for the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing?
Minister Lara: This is a policy of great importance for Ecuador, a country traditionally very proactive in the defense of its maritime resources. Ecuador, as part of its ocean policy, has signed not only this memorandum but all the instruments that allow us to protect our ocean rights and participate in the protection of Antarctica. The actions adopted by the Government and implemented by the Navy are aimed precisely at combating illegal fishing and discouraging the presence of fishing fleets in marine protected areas, especially in the Galápagos Islands, a natural heritage of humanity.