April 22, 2008

Correa Casts Out US Military

Seems like the right move on his part. The president really should be "in the loop" about matters of international espionage with one's generalissimos and neighbors. But this story has been brewing for a while. See my previous post on April 10, 2008: Ecuador’s Prez Charges Disloyalty in Defence Dept./CIA Collusion for more.
Ecuador's leader purges military and moves to expel American base
By Simon Romero
, Published: April 21, 2008
MANTA, Ecuador: Chafing at ties between American intelligence agencies and Ecuadorean military officials, President Rafael Correa is purging the armed forces of top commanders and pressing ahead with plans to cast out more than 100 American military personnel from an air base here in this coastal city.
Correa — who this month dismissed his defense minister, army chief of intelligence and commanders of the army, air force and joint chiefs — said that Ecuador's intelligence systems were "totally infiltrated and subjugated to the CIA." He accused senior military officials of sharing intelligence with Colombia, the Bush administration's top ally in Latin America.
[...] Still, tensions persist over his clash with top generals, which emerged after Colombian forces raided a Colombian rebel camp in Ecuador last month. The raid against the rebel group, the Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, put Ecuador and its ally Venezuela on edge with Colombia. Twenty-five people were killed, including Franklin Aisalla, an Ecuadorean operative for the group, known as the FARC.
The face-off between Ecuador and Colombia ended at a summit in the Dominican Republic, but it has begun again over revelations that Ecuadorean intelligence officials had been tracking Aisalla, information that was shared not with the president, but apparently with Colombian forces and their American military advisers.
The leak became evident when video and photo images surfaced in Colombia and Ecuador showing Aisalla meeting with FARC commanders.
[...] In a rebuke of senior military officials, Correa named as defense minister his personal secretary, Javier Ponce, who was an outspoken critic of the armed forces in his previous careers as a poet and an editorial writer at some of Ecuador's largest newspapers.
[...] Unlike the armed forces of most other countries in Latin America, Ecuador's military has retained substantial economic might since a military junta transferred power to a civilian government in the 1970s.
[...] Correa has not challenged these financial interests. But he and his political supporters are moving forward with efforts to shift the military away from its traditional reliance on training and assistance from the United States and toward strengthening ties with the armed forces of other South American countries.
The first indication of his plans to shift the country's focus was his promise to end the American presence at the Manta base once the United States' lease expired in 2009.
[...] Meanwhile, the assertions that American intelligence agencies were exerting too much influence in Ecuador have raised concerns among Correa's critics in Ecuador that he could take a radical turn like that of Chávez in Venezuela. Correa has been relatively moderate in his policies so far during his presidency.
For now, at least, the last word on the issue may rest with Ponce, the rumpled poet thrust into the public eye as Correa's new defense minister.
In an interview in Quito, Ponce, 59, mentioned the moderately leftist governments of Brazil and Chile as potential partners for increased military cooperation, subtly suggesting a reluctance to depend heavily on Venezuelan aid, as countries like Bolivia have done. But he was also clear about relying far less on the United States.
"We must get past our legacy of relying too much on military relations with the United States, with President Bush showing little regard for national borders or sovereignty," Ponce said. "The risk of remaining too close to such a partner is one of ideological contagion."

No comments: