Country Listing

Ecuador Table of Contents




An artillery unit in Quito in 1994
Courtesy Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The predominant military concern remained, as of late 1989, Ecuador's refusal to accept the boundary settlement of 1942 as final (see Other Nations and International Organizations , ch. 4). The southern deployment of many Ecuadorian army and air force combat units reflected the nation's preoccupation with the possibility of future tensions in the disputed area, although the units were not in forward positions. Peru's armed forces were far stronger than those of Ecuador, but analysts regarded the likelihood of an unprovoked Peruvian attack as remote. From a Peruvian perspective, there was no unsettled border problem. Peru regarded the Rio Protocol as fixing the boundary permanently and subsequent confrontations and clashes in the area as simply Ecuadorian efforts to reopen the issue.

As the 1941 conflict had demonstrated, Ecuador was in a vulnerable position in the event of a serious conflict with Peru. Its coastal areas in the south were exposed to penetration, and the port of Guayaquil could be subjected to both land attack and blockade from the sea. In addition, observers noted that Ecuador had been unwilling to risk the commitment of its modern fighter aircraft during the 1981 hostilities, presumably out of fear that Ecuador's air force would suffer a crippling blow at the hands of the stronger Peruvian air power.

Ecuador did not believe it necessary to take special military precautions against Colombia, its neighbor to the north, except to limit the infiltration of terrorists and narcotics traffickers. Like the northeastern border with Peru, the border area with Colombia consisted of heavily canopied jungle that greatly limited surveillance by ground patrols or air reconnaissance. The jungle was inhabited only sparsely by Indian tribes. Ecuador and Colombia had cordial official relations and no outstanding disputes. The Colombian armed forces, although somewhat larger than those of Ecuador, were not geared for offensive operations. Moreover, Colombia was preoccupied with serious internal security problems, notably narcotics trafficking and guerrilla insurgencies. Although one of these guerrilla organizations--the 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril--M-19)--had helped train an Ecuadorian underground group, terrorism imported from Colombia remained primarily a police rather than a military problem (see Internal Security , this ch.).

As a nation facing the Pacific Ocean, Ecuador had important maritime resources to protect, as well as protecting the security of the Galápagos Islands, 1,000 kilometers distant from the mainland (see Geography , ch. 2). The navy therefore patrolled the 200-mile zone claimed as territorial waters, both off the coast of the mainland and around the Galápagos Islands.

Data as of 1989