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Ecuador - Military Personnel

The 2008 Constitution specifies "Article 161. Civic-military service is voluntary. This service shall be performed in the framework of respect for diversity and rights and shall be supported by alternative training in various occupational fields that contribute to individual development and the well-being of society. Those who participate in this service shall not be taken to areas of high military risk. All forms of forced recruitment are forbidden." On 07 April 1837 the law was created for compulsory military conscription [servicio militar obligatorio] for citizens aged between 20 and 25, and thus it remained until the Constitution of 2008. At the global level, this service became obligatory in order to maintain a minimum capacity defensive. At the end of the cold war some Nations made it voluntary, other as Switzerland, through a referendum, in September 2013, decided to keep it with the compulsory character. As of 1988, about 80,000 of approximately 1.8 million males in the 18 to 49 age bracket were in the military. In a country of chronic underemployment, many poorer youths improve their education, housing, and dietary situations by joining the armed forces. Ambitious young men with few opportunities in the civilian labor market might be successful candidates for further service and training, thereby learning valuable skills and finding an avenue for upward mobility.

According to the Constitutions prior to 2008, all Ecuadorians were subject to a military service obligation. In practice, conscription applied only to males, who were liable for call-up at age nineteen for one year of service. Only a small number of women had been recruited as specialists in the enlisted grades; some received commissions in a few categories, such as medicine and dentistry. As of 1988, there were approximately 1,834,000 males in the eighteen to forty-nine age bracket, about 80,000 of whom reached the age of eligibility each year. Analysts considered this figure ample for service needs even though approximately 50 percent could not meet minimum physical or educational standards.

Between 2 January and 31 May there was an annual military registration, at which cases of postponement, exemption and voluntary service can be raised. Thus the military lists are drawn up that are used for the ballot. On the second Friday in June there was a lottery in which both those registered and those unregistered take part. According to law, the number of chosen matches military requirements plus an additional 30 percent, to replace those who, for administrative, medical or legal reasons were dismissed.

Because these round-ups usually occurred in rural areas, peasants and indigenous people were disproportionally represented in the armed forces. Moreover, they received a different sort of military training. Qechua-speaking indigenous conscripts were formed into special groups that did not have to wear uniform or have their hair cut. They were taught in the Qechua language. Upper middle class people, on the other hand, by the system of paying a compensation, can buy themselves out of military service. This meant that in practice those who performed military service tended to belong to the lower classes.

By one account, some 10% of conscripts desert. The person who has failed to report for service (described as remiso in Spanish) may be detained and made to perform the military service and required to pay the fine. After the age of 19 a person would not be detained and made to perform military service. In such a case the remiso may approach the Qualification Board one year after the service should have been performed, and by paying the fine obtain his military card or certificate. The year is counted not from the moment a person is called for recruitment, but from the moment he was expected to start serving.

A one-time payment must be made by persons who want to travel abroad and have never performed military service, regardless of why the service wasn't performed. This payment is for cases other than those of remisos, and includes men exempt from serving due to physical disability, a male son who is the family's breadwinner, being married before recruitment, being a priest or not being called in the recruitment selection.

There was little active opposition to the conscription system. Those undergoing military service enjoyed a measure of respect. In a country with chronic underemployment, many poorer youths improved their educational, housing, health-care, and dietary situations by joining the armed forces. Ambitious young men with few opportunities in the civilian labor market might be successful candidates for further service and training, thereby learning valuable skills and finding an avenue for upward mobility. Selective service boards in provincial capitals chose conscripts and liberally granted exemptions for family reasons, such as being the only son or the breadwinner. Students in good academic standing received deferments.

Since the 1960s, the army had assigned many conscripts with peasant backgrounds to the Army Agrarian Military Conscription (Conscripcion Agraria Militar del Ejercito—CAME). The CAME program sought to enable youths from rural areas—often with a minimum education—to meet their service obligation by working in army-operated dairy, livestock-raising, vegetable- or fruit-farming, and shrimp enterprises. The conscripts received a limited amount of military training and were exposed to modern farming practices that might benefit them when they returned to civilian life. The military used CAME products directly or sold them commercially.

Army conscripts received their training in the units to which they were assigned. The quality of basic training depended greatly on the importance attached to it by the brigade commander. In an effort to standardize unit training, the Department of Instruction was created in army headquarters in 1988. Special ranger, underwater demolition, parachute, and other similar courses were given at brigade level.

Upon attaining the rank of corporal, conscripts accepted for enlistment for further service could apply to one of several NCO schools. Each school included a core curriculum accompanied by training in a military occupational specialty at such facilities as the armor school at Riobamba or the engineers' school at Esmeraldas. The intense competition and the difficulty of the courses produced a high dropout rate among NCO candidates.

Cadets preparing for commissioning as army second lieutenants studied at the Eloy Alfaro Advanced Military School (Escuela Superior Militar "Eloy Alfaro") in Parcayacu, approximately fifteen kilometers north of Quito. Candidates had to complete the ninth grade of school and pass a battery of written examinations, interviews, and psychological screening. In 1987 approximately 130 cadets graduated from the school's three-year course of study, which corresponded to the final three years of high school. The Eloy Alfaro school offered separate curricula for cadets opting for combat arms (infantry, armor, artillery, engineers, and signals), service branches (administration, supply, transportation), and service support branches (health, military justice, cartography). Observers considered the school's quarters, sports facilities, and training areas to be excellent. Additional construction was expected to allow enrollment to climb from 500 in 1987 to 800 cadets by 1989.

Prior to promotion, lieutenants and captains each attended separate nine-month courses at the Advanced Training Institute (Escuela de Perfeccionamiento). Courses covered tactical operations, integration of the various service arms, and branch-oriented training. Total enrollment was about 165. The Army War Academy (Academia de Guerra del Ejercito), located in a southern suburb of Quito, prepared majors for command and general staff posts or for assignments to service elements at brigade and higher echelons. The study material corresponded to that of the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The academy offered a two-year program for officers of combat arms and a one-year program for service and service support officers. Enrollment in 1987 was forty-five in the combat arms track and seventy in the service tracks.

Virtually all officers graduated from one of the three military academies. In an analysis of the social origins of the officer corps based on cadets entering the military academies between 1960 and 1966, political scientist John Samuel Fitch determined that more than 60 percent came from the middle segment of the middle classes. Fitch assumed each cadet's class background from his father's occupation; this group had fathers who were mainly civil servants, military officers, teachers, and merchants. Those of working-class or lower middle-class origins, whose fathers were artisans, military NCOs, or workers, constituted approximately 20 percent. Approximately 17 percent had fathers who were members of the property-owning upper class or professionals from the upper middle class. Fitch's research confirmed a definite trend toward democratization of the officer corps. In 1928 and 1929, for example, more than 44 percent of entering cadets came from the upper and upper middle classes, whereas some 55 percent were from the middle class and none from the lower classes. The number of sons of military officers remained constant at about 20 percent of the entering cadets, although a growing number of sons of NCOs had qualified for the service academies since 1956.

Each of the services operated a number of schools for children in the first through the ninth grades. Although originally intended to help families of military personnel avoid difficulties arising from divergent school calendars in the Costa (coastal region) and the Sierra, the schools also accepted children of civilians on a tuition basis. Ecuadorians rated these schools highly; as a result, competition for admission was keen. Graduates of the armed forces schools had an advantage in applying for admission to one of the service academies.

On 01 March 2016, with the aim of eliminating inequalities in the Armed Forces regarding officers and ordinary soldiers, the Ecuadorian government prepared a decree, according to President Rafael Correa’s statements. “We will be radical. We’re preparing a decree to ban all those practices like food and different cafeterias (…) I hope all those differentiated clubs, those differentiated parties are eliminated in the future,” the head of state affirmed Tuesday. He also criticized the existence of schools for officers’ children and different schools for ordinary soldiers’ children.

The chief of state referred to food inequality in the barracks, known as “farm” and explained that there are officers, who despite working in an office from 9:00 to 17:00 and living in cities like Quito and Guayaquil with their families; get money for food. He has also emphasized that aspects such as exorbitant redundancy payments subsidized by the State should be corrected, since a general of the army gets more than 200,000 dollars for retiring or retirement pensions of 5,000 dollars which are also subsidized by the state.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2016 17:47:30 ZULU