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Ecuador Table of Contents




Figure 17. Organization of National Security, 1989

The Constitution of 1979 defines the armed forces as a nondeliberative body and an instrument of civil authority--an inaccurate reflection of the true civil-military relationship in Ecuador. According to the Constitution, the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and the only one authorized to grant military ranks. The mission of the Public Forces (the armed forces and the National Police) is to preserve national sovereignty, to defend the integrity and independence of the republic, and to guarantee its legal order. The Constitution further enjoins the Public Forces, in a manner to be determined by law, to lend their cooperation in national economic and social development.

National Security Act Number 275 of 1979 authorized the president to mobilize forces during threats of aggression and to declare a state of national emergency at times of imminent aggression, major disturbances, and domestic disasters. This law also established the NSC, chaired by the president, to make recommendations on, and supervise execution of, national security policies. NSC members included the president of the National Congress; the president of the Supreme Court of Justice; the chairs of the National Development Council and the Monetary Board; the ministers of foreign relations, national defense, government and justice, and finance and credit; and the chief of the Joint Command.

The Secretariat General, the NSC's operational arm, coordinated and helped shape national security planning. Secretariat personnel primarily consisted of active-duty or retired officers. Analysts considered it to be a subordinate arm of the Joint Command, whose chief nominated the head of the secretariat, ordinarily an army general. The secretariat directly supervised the National Directorate of Mobilization, the National Directorate of Civil Defense, the Institute of Higher National Studies, and the National Directorate of Intelligence. Although the latter body was designed to coordinate all intelligence activities, its head had a lower rank than the chief of army intelligence.

The Joint Command, consisting of its chief and chief of staff of the Joint Command as well as the commanders of the three service branches, also directly advised the president. The Joint Command had its own staff organized into functional departments. Each of the three services had staffs organized along similar lines (see fig. 17). The minister of national defense was normally a senior active-duty or retired officer. His influence on national defense policy generally depended on his rank relative to the chief of the Joint Command and his personal relationship to the president.

All retired career personnel and all conscripts had reserve status until the age of fifty. The armed forces maintained a skeleton reserve organization at the national level, directly under the Ministry of National Defense, as well as cadre organizations staffed by retired officers and NCOs in various areas of the country. Training exercises were not generally held, but former conscripts assigned to reserve units could expect to be called up for annual weekend musters.

Data as of 1989