The redefined role of Ecuador's military and police under the new Constitution

Latin America and the Caribbean

On Sunday, Ecuadorians went to the polls to vote on the country's 20th Constitution, which has been one of President Rafael Correa's main projects since he was elected two years ago. With 96.26% of the votes counted, the 'yes' vote has 64.04% of the vote and the 'no' 28.01%. As has been reported widely in the international press, the new Constitution concentrates power in the hands of the President, gives the President the option of running for reelection - for a total of two consecutive four year terms -, permits civil unions of homosexual couples, puts the powers of the Central Bank into the hands of the executive, and, for the first time in the world of constitutions, grants nature an inalienable right to be protected. What hasn't been reported is how the new constitution will affect the military, the police, civilian control, and sovereignty - topics that are of main interest to Just the Facts. For the next few days, we will outline on this blog how the new Constitution will affect these aspects of security and defense in Ecuador, courtesy of a series published by Ecuador's El Comercio called "With a microscope on the Constitution." Today, we will start with the military and the police. Military and Police have the right to vote (translated from the article "Los uniformados podrán votar") What does this imply? The constitutional reform project eliminates the concept of the "Public Force" and clearly defines the functions of the Armed Forces as an entity in defense of sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition, it defines the authority of the Police as an organism in charge of public order and citizen security. The responsibility to guarantee the legal system of the nation is not included in the new functions of the Armed Forces. Within political rights, the legislative project determines that the members of the Armed Forces and the Police will have the voluntary right to vote. Nevertheless, it does not signal the control mechanism for order during electoral processes. Military service will no longer be obligatory under the framework of respect for diversity and rights. Additionally, voluntary recruitment will be accompanied by training programs in different occupational areas. Those who voluntarily enlist for military service will not be designated for zones of high military risk. In regard to members of the Police, they will have a specialized formation in accordance with human rights. In both cases, a system of merit-based promotions will be established, with criteria for equality and gender. In application of the principle of legal unity, the police and the military will be judged by the citizen justice system if a crime is committed. What does this mean? The institutions of the Armed Forces and the Police will be differentiated, with specific and complementary functions under the framework of respect for democracy and human rights. The legislative project will avoid having the high-command of the military decide what circumstances constitute a threat to the legal integrity of the nation. The members of the Armed Forces and the Police will have the ability to exercise their political right to a voluntary vote within the electoral process; however, there are restrictions with respect to the possibility of becoming a candidate in a popular election. Any Ecuadorian citizen will be able to voluntarily enlist for military service. The legislative project prohibits any form of forced recruitment and guarantees the security of the volunteer members, although it does not specify what zones are considered to be of high military risk. Additionally, the project guarantees the enlistment of both men and women to the Armed Forces and the Police without any type of discrimination. The Police is defined as an institution to service the community with a focus on crime prevention to guarantee the security of citizens. If a member of the Armed Forces or the Police commits a crime, he or she will be judged in a court specialized in the subject of military and police and integrated into the judicial system. The project: Art. 62. The vote will be accessible to people between 16 and 18 years old, over 65 years old, Ecuadorians who live abroad, members of the Armed Forces and the Police. Art. 113. Members of the Armed Forces and the National Police who are in active service cannot be candidates for popular election. Art. 147. It is the power and the right of the President of the Republics to exercise maximum authority over the Armed Forces and the National Police and to designate the members of the High Command of the Military and Police. Art. 152. Active members of the Armed Forces and the National Police cannot be Ministers of the State. Art. 158. The Armed Forces and the National Police are institutions that protect the rights, liberties and guarantees of the citizens. The Armed Forces have the fundamental mission to defined the sovereignty and integrity of the territory. Internal protection and the maintenance of public order is the responsibility of the National Police. Art. 159. The Armed Forces and the National Police will be obedient and follow the chain of command, and will comply with their mission with the strict submission to civil power and to the Constitution. Art. 160. Those aspiring to a military or police career will not be discriminated against for their enlistment. The law establishes the specific requirements for those cases in which special skills, knowledge or capacity is required. The members will be subjected to a system of merit-based promotion, with criteria for gender equality. Art. 161. Civil-military service is voluntary. This service will be carried out in the framework of respect for diversity and rights, accompanied by an alternative training . . . The current law Art. 27. Popular vote is universal, equal, direct and secret; it is obligatory for those who can read and write, optional for those who are illiterate and for those over 65 years old. Active members of the "Public Force" will not be able to use this right. Art. 101. Active members of the public force may not be candidates in the popular election. Art. It is the power and the right of the President of the Republic to exercise the maximum authority over the public force, designate the members of the Miltary High Command . . .