Challenges of Our Era

By Dialogo
March 05, 2008

_Recently appointed Ecuador Minister of Defense Dr. Wellington Sandoval spoke with Diálogo for an exclusive interview. Below are a few of his thoughts on border control, migration and other transnational issues. On border control..._ Border control is a big challenge. We have historically had problems in the southern border with Peru, which have been advantageously rectified. But over the last few years, we have been involved with controlling the north border as a result of the serious and harmful internal problem of our brother nation, the Republic of Colombia… In recent times, the illegal Colombian forces have situated in the border; naturally, this promotes a problem that means displacement of people, which means our Colombian brothers come as refugees and produce problems in the country in the sense that we have the legal and moral obligation to give them all the support that they need. On the other hand, narcotrafficking has consequently increased in the area, as well as other elements of illicit trafficking, and we in the armed forces have to be ready, giving our country total sovereignty and alleviate the problem. _On narcotrafficking…_ We—as signatories of international convenants with the United Nations, with the United States, with the Organization of American States and with countries in the Andean Ridge—have to defend our country and protect against narcotrafficking, stop the trafficking of drugs and stop the trafficking of arms. This cannot be an individual action of Ecuador. Naturally, it has to be a multinational action. And, in fact, we have organization and multilateral contacts for the end goal of being effective in the control of illicit trafficking. _On security challenges for the 21st century…_ At this time, the immediate problem that we have is the narcotrafficking corridor in the north sector. On one hand, [this] causes that armed illegal forces penetrate in our country to rest or to meet. Logically, without working against the recognition of the freedom of the Colombian community, of the government of Colombia, respecting the rights of Colombians and respecting the citizens of Colombia, we have to protect ourselves and maintain the sovereignty of our own country. We can't let this continue because it would be a very serious issue. On the other hand, [there is] the fact that many of our Colombian brothers—more than 50,000—have passed across the border as refugees and that we have to necessarily support these refugees … Poverty has increased for this same reason. There are displaced people, lack of jobs and precisely, Plan Ecuador is there and will help in the future, with the capability of recovering and protecting the Ecuadorian citizen at the government level with the support of the armed forces, which are there to do it. A final message for our region I think it's important that the changes that are coming into the world are going to change the geostrategy, which will influence people, institutions and states. What is utmost is to realize that in South America, democracy is becoming stronger and all of us should act to maintain and invigorate democracy even more because it's fundamental to live together peacefully and for the rights of communities. In the future, we will have to change the concept of security, emphasizing even more on the individual, on his protection, on what it is to give the individual all the opportunities: for education, for living, for development, for economic revitalization… The fact that there could be fewer inequalities will strengthen for certain, the basic concept of security and defense. _About the role of the armed forces and the democratic process …_ Basically, we follow what our constitution says, which is to maintain the sovereignty of the country, to take care of the secretariat, to maintain the internal and external order of the country. In fact, Ecuador has maintained a democratic process, and, logically, the armed forces have to present an example of respect to the democratic process. _About the ideological changes through the region:_ Ok, really, the region has experienced ideological changes in the sense that there is an evolution – a political evolution, which is a response to the problems accepted at this time – social inequality, poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunity for children and youth – which bring regional problems. It is a response to that program that has not been accepted in recent years … For this reason, really, in South America, six countries have changed their stile. We have arrived to that which is socialist, but what is interesting is that it has been done so democratically. It is a democratic response of the community. We think that security is based in the individual, in giving opportunities to the individual, in teaching the individual, in giving him all of the benefits that modern society ought to offer a person. We are basically involved in what amounts to more specific functions that the armed forces has to do to adapt ourselves to the ideological change in the sense of support. [This] means more involvement in the social and economic development of society … For example, we have now Plan Ecuador, which was approved about six months ago, which, in a sense, gives protection to citizens at the North border, who, until a short time ago, did not have support at the government levels. To see more about the interview, please click on this link: "Minister Sandoval: Security is Strengthened when Inequity Decreases":