Authorities from the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador donated $3.1 million to representatives of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces during a visit to El Coca, in the province of Orellana.
“This handing over shows the collaboration in terms of security between Ecuador and the United States,” U.S. Air Force Colonel Jaime Gomez, Defense attaché in Ecuador, told the press. “Support between the two countries is vital to combat situations that affect the security of the Ecuadorian people. The United States continues to invest in the country’s priority areas.”
According to the U.S. Embassy, the August 3 donation will be distributed as follows: $1.1 million for military equipment, $1.3 million for the construction of the Fluvial Maintenance Center for the 19 Napo Jungle Brigade, and $747,000 for communications equipment for the San Lorenzo Marine Infantry Brigade.
The donation is part of U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) commitment to the South American nation to support maritime interdiction operations along the northern border and associated Amazonian waterways. The cooperation between the United States and Ecuador strengthen citizen security, the fight against drug trafficking, organized crime, human trafficking, illegal mining, and other transnational threats, Ecuadorian news site Primicias reported.
“Ecuador’s Armed Forces and Police are fighting hard against organized crime and appear to be winning the battle,” sociologist Daniel Pontón Cevallos, a public policy and security expert and dean of the School of Security and Defense at Ecuador’s Institute of Higher National Studies, told Diálogo on August 15. “Strengthening the capacity to fight narcotrafficking and aerial interdiction processes is vital to continue the advances against this type of criminal organizations.”
Amauri Chamorro, an expert in political communication in Latin America, told Spanish daily Público in August that Ecuador is the ideal country for laundering money obtained from narcotrafficking. “The country’s economic structure is conducive to the export of drugs,” he said.
To counteract this scourge, in July, U.S. and Ecuadorian authorities signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes, among other objectives, strengthening the fight against organized crime and the capabilities of the Defense sector.
In a statement, the General Secretariat of Communication of the Presidency in Quito said that the cooperation process of this agreement will last for seven years. The memorandum mainly provides for cooperation between the two countries for the exchange of information, as well as to combat armed groups, narcotrafficking, and related crimes.
The document highlights that other aspects of the agreement have to do with training and qualification of military personnel of both countries and the acquisition of resources to strengthen border defense. Both countries also established four lines of effort: information exchange, capacity building, training, and acquisition of essential resources.
The bilateral action plan, which reaffirms the confidence-building mechanisms between the two military forces, will involve the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State, as well as the Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense, according to a press release from the U.S. Embassy.
These actions take place while Ecuador is in a state of exception and a tense atmosphere, after a wave of violence culminated with the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, on August 9. An FBI delegation will assist with the investigation of this crime, Ecuadorian Interior Minister Juan Zapata told the press.
“The FBI will determine, together with the Ecuadorian National Police and the Ecuadorian Attorney General’s Office, the scope of collaboration and support,” Zapata added.