Mar, 01/23/2024 - 14:37 -- bacosta

"Ecuador is a territory of peace. The establishment of foreign military bases or foreign installations for military purposes will not be allowed. It is prohibited to cede national military bases to foreign armed or security forces".

Article 5, Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, 2008


President Daniel Noboa triggered a critical situation in Ecuador by opening the doors to what he has called "the war". The multi-faceted organised crime landscape exploded earlier this year, shifting from a "mano dura" (iron fist) to a "super mano dura" (super iron fist) approach. The official declaration includes terms such as "internal armed conflict" and identifying "military targets" to be neutralised. In this process, the militarisation of society has become seemingly indispensable, even to large sectors of a desperate society. It relegates the National Police to a subordinate role to the armed forces.

Jurist and university professor Córdova Alarcón rightly points out that there is a risk that a pincer will stifle the democratic regime between organised crime on the one hand and the military on the other. Increasing militarisation translates into less democracy, opening the space for neoliberal, anti-popular economic measures and creating a dangerous political stability scenario.

In his short time in office, Noboa, with the support of almost all the parliamentary blocs, managed to pass two neoliberal-inspired laws, the Economic Efficiency and Employment Generation Law and the Energy Competitiveness Law. The former strengthens the free trade zones and the covert mechanisms of privatisation in the framework of public-private alliances while condoning the tax debts of large economic groups, as in 2018, 2015 and 2008. The second one opens the door to privatising the electricity sector even more comprehensively. A law to increase VAT to 15% to finance "the war" is being discussed.

The dollarised economy is conducive to the proliferation of crime and attracts illicit activities. Money laundering is estimated at least US$3.5 billion, or 3 per cent of GDP, of which 75 per cent goes into what could be considered the formal economy. Dollarisation and the economy of this small Andean country underpin the influence of the narco-dollar in an environment characterised by various complicities among political and business elites.

Various forces' aspirations calling for the return of the US armed forces complicate the country's political situation. Their departure from the Manta base in 2008, mandated by the 2008 Constitution, resulted from resistance processes dating back to 1999. The "internal armed conflict" declaration seems to align with Washington's aspirations. It is always ready to deepen the bonds of submission in its "backyard". The US has had various approaches since the closure of the Manta base, with an emphasis on the fight against drug trafficking and coordination with different governments, including that of Guillermo Lasso. In 1942, Peruvian troops invaded Ecuadorian territory to impose a border settlement, and American soldiers arrived and withdrew after the peace agreement.

In June 2022, both governments reached an agreement to prepare a "Plan Ecuador", similar to "Plan Colombia". In December of the same year, the US Congress passed the "Ecuador-US Partnership Act" with a half-year deadline to propose a concrete action plan. Amid this process, in October 2023, the Ecuadorian foreign minister and the US ambassador signed the "Status of Forces Agreement", a significant step towards returning US troops despite the constitutional prohibition.

Since the departure of the US military base in Manta, there has been a constant campaign for its return, highlighting the military "collaboration" offered by representatives of the Southern Command. The agreement signed at the end of the Lasso government would apply privileges and immunities to US military personnel, civilians and contractors for various activities, including training and humanitarian aid. It includes exemption from criminal jurisdiction, tax exemptions, free movement of vehicles and vessels, and conflict resolution under US law.

The US geo-strategic logic seeks to have the region's armed forces take on policing roles to combat drug trafficking, terrorism and other perceived threats. This approach would revive Homeland Security principles of the past, strengthening counter-insurgency schemes, possibly backed by paramilitary groups, under the guise of fighting organised crime.

Despite aspirations for the return of US troops, it is essential to remember that the presence of the Manta Base did not solve Ecuador's drug trafficking problem. Crime increased, drug shipments tripled, and abuses by US soldiers, especially against fishermen, were reported. Moreover, the warmongering strategy adopted by the Noboa government, accompanied by a crusade for economic neoliberalisation, lacks viability and has proved unsuccessful in similar experiences in Mexico, Colombia and El Salvador.

Tema de investigación: 
Crisis económica