His nearly four decades of military service in the Ecuadorian Armed Forces speak to the experience and professionalism of Army Major General Nelson Proaño Rodríguez, who took office as head of the Armed Forces’ Joint Command on May 5, 2022.
Maj. Gen. Proaño, who graduated as an infantry second lieutenant in August 1984, has an extensive academic background, including two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees, and four certificates, among other higher education studies in Ecuador and abroad.
Maj. Gen. Proaño has also held high-ranking positions, such as deputy military attaché to the Ecuadorian Embassy in Chile, commander of the Army Education and Doctrine Command, director of the Eloy Alfaro Military College, chief of the Ecuadorian Army General Staff, and chief of the Armed Forces’ Joint Command Operational Staff, among others.
Diálogo spoke with Maj. Gen. Proaño about his military goals and priorities.
Diálogo: What are your priorities?
Army Major General Nelson Proaño Rodríguez, head of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces’ Joint Command: To fulfill the mission of the Joint Command, which is to conduct military operations under the guidelines of the Ministry of Defense. We have been designing new models and strategies to continue being effective in the control of threats and risks that threaten the defense of national sovereignty and the internal security of the State. For example, a few weeks ago, through the State Public Security Council, narcotrafficking was identified as a threat. In this context, the Armed Forces have to more closely promote the coordinated work that we carry out in support of the National Police and work in our areas of expertise in order to be able to confront this threat and its related crimes.
Diálogo: You mentioned narcotrafficking. What are the results of the joint work that the Armed Forces carry out to stop this threat?
Maj. Gen. Proaño: We support the National Police, always within the framework of our Constitution and in compliance with responsibilities. The State has determined that on some occasions there are areas that require priority intervention. For example, in the provinces of Esmeraldas and Guayas, where, via executive decree issued by the President of the Republic, a state of exception was declared in areas that were established as special security zones, and it was approved for the Armed Forces to form Joint Task Forces with personnel and means from the three forces that belong to the Joint Command, to carry out operations in close coordination with the National Police and to confront transnational organized crime.
Diálogo: Tell me about the new organizational culture of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces.
Maj. Gen. Proaño: We have given a lot of importance to the subject of organizational culture in order to foster and consolidate a sense of institutional belonging. We are working in the training schools and in the advanced training schools with military personnel to take up again more firmly the subject of institutional values and military principles, of belonging and family focus, among others.
Diálogo: What progress are the Ecuadorian Armed Forces making in the area of gender integration, and do you carry out any kind of exchange with the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) program of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)?
Gen. Proaño: The inclusion of women dates back to 1972 when the first women entered the Armed Forces as specialists with their own profession, whether as doctors, lawyers, or other specialties. In 1999, women entered the training schools to graduate as line or weapon officers and also in the services. Today, we have women in higher ranks, and they are ready to advance to the next step and thus reach the highest ranks within the military institutions. This closer engagement of female personnel has been efficient and allowed the military institutions to become more inclusive.
Concerning the SOUTHCOM WPS program, we have been able to train a significant number of female military personnel, who have become multipliers of the training received on the subject of gender and inclusion.
Diálogo: What new cooperation agreements do the Armed Forces have with their U.S. counterparts?
Maj. Gen. Proaño: Cooperation has always been constant with our U.S. counterparts, and we have several agreements in different areas, especially in training and in the execution of exercises with other countries. Similarly, in the area of security, we have the support of the U.S. Orion P-3 aircraft that allows us to maintain surveillance on the Ecuadorian coast and be able to share information to detect narcotrafficking activities and other related crimes.
Diálogo: How are the Armed Forces working to combat illegal fishing, especially the Chinese-flagged vessels that cross the Atlantic to the Pacific toward the Galápagos?
Maj. Gen. Proaño: According to our regulations, the Ecuadorian Navy is directly responsible for control of the sea. We have systems, sensors, and radars that allow us to locate those vessels that have not been reported, identify their flag and registration, and determine what activity they are carrying out within our territorial sea. In addition, the country has an exclusive economic zone that covers the Galápagos Islands sector, around 40 miles. In this area, we execute and have all the information of those vessels that do not comply with the laws or that turn off their communications in order to not be detected. Logically, when there is resistance, our Navy acts with its vessels and maritime means to determine what activity is being carried out, if it’s legal or illegal. If it’s illegal, it’s subject to the corresponding legal processes.
Diálogo: Ecuador is part of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire and is affected by natural phenomena, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. How are the Armed Forces prepared to respond to natural disasters and humanitarian aid?
Maj. Gen. Proaño: In our Sierra region we have a number of active volcanoes, among them the Cotopaxi volcano. We have had some natural disasters, such as the earthquake of April 16, 2016, in the provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas, where the Armed Forces mobilized to support State institutions and the affected population. Our preparation is continuous to act in the face of these events, this is possible precisely because of the training we’ve had in peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid missions that we carry out with the United Nations. For example, our personnel are properly trained to manage shelters for the victims. Additionally, the Armed Forces have a logistics capability for shelter, transportation, humanitarian assistance, security and control, rescue, and other needs that arise.