Ecuador Table of Contents
Ecuador's military history dates from the first attempt to secure freedom from Spain in 1811. The rebel forces of the newly declared independent state of Quito attempted to extend their control to other parts of Ecuadorian territory but proved little match for the army dispatched by the viceroy of Peru. In the Battle of Ibarra in December 1812, Spanish forces easily reasserted control of the country. When the independence movement began again in 1820, Ecuadorian forces assembled in Guayaquil, combining with contingents of revolutionary soldiers from Colombia commanded by Antonio José de Sucre Alcalá, a close collaborator of the Venezuelan liberator, Simón Bolívar Palacios. After a successful invasion of the Sierra (Andean highlands), the rebels scored a decisive victory over the royalist army in 1822 at the Battle of Pichincha (see The Struggle for Independence , ch. 1).
In 1828, as a member along with Colombia and Venezuela of the Confederation of Gran Colombia, Ecuador fought against Peru to block the latter's attempt at annexation. Confederation forces, fewer than half of which were Ecuadorians, defeated the much larger Peruvian invasion force at a second Battle of Pichincha in February 1829.
At the dissolution of Gran Colombia in 1830, most of Ecuador's senior army officers and many of its troops were Venezuelans, as was the country's first president, Juan José Flores. The army of 2,000 men consisted of three infantry battalions and one cavalry regiment. Even as late as 1845, when Flores was forced from his second term of office, only four of fifteen general officers were Ecuadorian. Non-Ecuadorians comprised most of the officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) of the elite cavalry units as well. Upon taking office as president in 1851, General José María Urbina freed the black slaves and recruited many of them into the military.
Beginning in the 1860s, successive governments attempted to professionalize the armed forces. Gabriel García Moreno, who dominated the political scene from 1860 until 1875, reduced the army in size and depoliticized it. Further improvements in the army occurred during the relatively prosperous period of the 1880s and 1890s under the military dictator Ignacio de Veintemilla, and successor civilian governments. French officers arrived to provide training on a newly acquired arsenal of weapons. By 1900 the army was able to repel an attack from Colombia by Ecuadorian political opponents of the government in power.
In 1905 the government established military education and training institutions and divided the country into four defense zones. Immediately preceding World War I, the army had nine infantry battalions, three cavalry regiments, three artillery regiments, and three engineering battalions. By the mid-1920s, it had expanded to fifteen infantry battalions. Later, under the influence of an Italian military mission, the infantry was reduced to ten battalions, although each battalion now consisted of four rather than the previous two or three rifle companies. In 1930 the army had a total strength of about 5,500 men of all ranks.
Despite the military's continual growth, in July 1941, when conflict broke out over the Amazonian region disputed with Peru, the Ecuadorians were ill-prepared to resist invasion. The much larger Peruvian army of 13,000, supported by a battalion of Czech-manufactured tanks, together with artillery and air power, moved quickly into the southern coastal province of El Oro, threatening Guayaquil (see fig. 1). The fewer than 1,800 Ecuadorian troops in the area lacked air cover and could offer only limited resistance. Peruvian forces also moved into the disputed Amazonian territory without significant opposition. After a campaign lasting only three weeks, an armistice was arranged. The subsequent Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Boundaries (Rio Protocol) in early 1942 imposed on Ecuador acceptance of Peru's claims in the Amazonian region in return for Peruvian withdrawal from Ecuador's coastal provinces.
Ecuador declared war on the Axis powers and began to receive military aid from the United States in 1942. This aid consisted at first of light weapons, mortars, light tanks, and armored scout cars. Under a military assistance agreement with the United States in 1952, the Ecuadorian armed forces, which now totaled approximately 15,000 troops, received additional equipment, including howitzers, tanks, and armored personnel carriers. Revenue coming from the oil discovered in the late 1960s financed the purchase of considerable additional ground forces weaponry as well as fighters for the small air force (see Armed Forces , this ch.).
Occasional clashes with Peru occurred in the border area lost by Ecuador in the 1942 settlement. These clashes flared into an outbreak of serious fighting in January 1981. Ecuadorian troops had apparently established an outpost on Peruvian soil but were driven back in an engagement lasting five days at a reported cost to Ecuador of 200 deaths. The Peruvians made effective use of helicopters, air strikes, and commando teams specially trained for jungle operations. In 1983 and again in 1984, shooting incidents occurred when patrols of both countries met in the territory still claimed by Ecuador.
Data as of 1989
Ecuador Table of Contents