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date: 26 February 2021

Ecuador: Military Autonomy Under Democratic Rulelocked

  • Maiah JaskoskiMaiah JaskoskiDepartment of Politics and International Affairs, Northern Arizona University

Summary

Under Ecuador’s “third wave” democracy that began in 1979, the armed forces have exhibited considerable autonomy vis-à-vis civilians in government, as measured by (a) military intervention in politics and (b) the armed forces’ spread into internal security. Perhaps most noteworthy, military participation in politics and internal security increased significantly during the second half of the 1990s, in a permissive environment: as a result of their rule in the 1970s, the armed forces enjoyed a positive reputation within society as an institution capable of getting things done, without committing human rights abuses. Within that context, a traumatic military role crisis prompted the armed forces to expand their political and internal security roles. The armed forces lost their traditional mission of defending Ecuador’s southern border against Peru in the late 1990s, due to the resolution of that border dispute. In its search for institutional justification, the military proactively intensified its participation in politics and internal security. That extensive internal security work not only served as an indicator of military autonomy vis-à-vis civilians but it also made the armed forces ineffective and unreliable in responding to the civilian government’s basic national defense requirements, as evinced by the military’s response to a new sovereignty threat. When Colombian guerrilla crossings into northern Ecuador became a salient border threat in the 2000s, the armed forces focused on internal security in the north and not border defense.

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