QUITO – Ecuador’s new defense minister, Oswaldo Jarrin, announced Monday the restructuring of the military command structure along the border with Colombia and the appointment of a deputy minister – namely Diego Moreno – as two of the changes being made since he took over the portfolio.
“There will no longer be a Unified Command,” announced Jarrin at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in which he explained that starting now all Ecuadorian military deployments in the zone will be made as part of “a joint task force.”
That force, which will be under the command of a general, will be tasked with monitoring a zone where in recent months security has deteriorated due to the activity of dissident groups belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.
Four soldiers and three reporters have been killed since January in various attacks by the Oliver Sinisterra dissident FARC group, which is also holding a couple hostage. The three reporters were taken hostage before being executed.
Some 30 soldiers have been wounded in approximately 10 attacks staged over the past three months.
President Lenin Moreno in late April fired his interior and defense ministers – Cesar Navas and Patricio Zambrano, respectively – over the poor security situation and named Jarrin to take over the latter’s portfolio, which he had held more than a decade ago.
A former general, the new minister spoke about a “reorganization of forces” with an eye toward tightening military cooperation with the National Police.
The joint task force will be what “establishes the norms for operations and the new security plans for Esmeraldas province,” he said.
He also referred to a new defense and security policy for the northern border, with nine objectives, among which are economic and social elements, and said that “security does not mean militarizing the border (but rather a military) presence to guarantee that the other institutions can fulfill their functions. It means protecting the public.”