Tag Archives: civil-military relations

Ecuador – President Correa Fires Military High Command

Last week, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, fired all of Ecuador’s military high command for their refusal to pay back to the government money that the army allegedly owes. President Correa announced via Twitter that he had dismissed the army high command after they refused to refund US$41 million to the Ministry of the Environment. The former army high commander, Luis Anibal Garzon, refuted Correa’s claims and argued that the government was depriving the military of much needed funds, which it needed to cover basic pensions.

The dispute stems from the sale of 220 hectares of land in Guayaquil. The land, which was owned by the Instituto de Seguridad Social de las Fuerzas Armadas del Ecuador (ISSFA), the army social security and pension fund, was sold to the government in 2010 and used to create Guayaquil Park. Last July, the Pope, during his visit to Latin America, said mass in this park. At the time, the Ministry of the Environment paid over US$48 million for the land, even though the municipal council had apparently valued the land at only US$7.3 million. The Attorney General conducted an investigation last November, which concluded that the government had drastically overpaid ISSFA. Based on this investigation, the Correa administration then ordered the Ministry of Finance to recoup the US$41 million difference for the Ministry of the Environment.

The high command of the army refused to acquiesce to this request and instead publicly accused Correa of undermining the ability of the army to secure and pay for its pensions.

In response, Correa then dismissed the entire high command for disobedience.

Luis Anibal Garzon, chief of command of the armed forces was replaced by Oswaldo Fabián Zambrano Cueva. The new head of the navy is Angel Isaac Sarzosa Aguirre; the head of the air force, Cesar Abdon Merizalde Pavon; and head of the army, Luis Miguel Angel Castro Ayala.

Some have argued that Correa’s actions are part of a larger populist, even electoral authoritarian strategy, of centralizing power, which has seen him reform the constitution, aggressively tackle political opponents in civil society, and change term limits. [1] In response, groups of protestors took to the streets of Quito chanting “Correa Out.” These protests were marked by counter-protests in support of the Correa administration, where Correa lashed out at right-wing opponents and the media for tarnishing his regime and policies.

Worryingly, this incident does appear to indicate a step up in political polarization among opposition groups and the government. This is a trend that is reflected in other parts of the Andes. Political polarization is a recurrent feature of Bolivian politics, and polarization between the opposition and the government in Venezuela, has severely undermined the political stability of the country.

[1] For example, see the special issue on Latin America’s Authoritarian Drift in the Journal of Democracy (2013, Vol. 24, Issue 3).

Guinea-Bissau – Presidential and Parliamentary elections

In Guinea-Bissau presidential and parliamentary elections were held on 13 April. It has been almost two years since the country last tried to hold elections.  In April 2012, a military coup disrupted the presidential election as it headed to a run-off. Several logistical problems and delays caused the elections to be repeatedly postponed, having initially been scheduled for 24 November 2013 and then 16 March 2014.

This time, no major incidents or problems or incidents were reported and observers certified the presidential and parliamentary elections as ‘peaceful, free, fair and transparent’. The turnout was nearly 90 per cent.

The president is elected by absolute majority vote through a two-round system to serve a five-year term. The 102 members of parliament are elected from 27 multi-member constituencies to serve four-year terms.

Here are the results of the presidential elections:

Candidate Party[1] Votes %
José Mário Vaz PAIGC 252,269 40.98
Nuno Nabiam Independent 154,784 25.14
Paulo Gomes Independent 60,783 9.87
Abel Incada PRS 43,293 7.03
Iaia Djaló PND 28,068 4.56
Ibraima Sori Djaló PRN 19,209 3.12
Afonso Té PRID 18,398 2.99
Hélder Vaz RGB 8,516 1.38
Domingos Quadé Independent 8,432 1.37
Aregado Mantenque PT 7,105 1.15
Luís Nancassa Independent 6,815 1.11
Jorge Malú Independent 5,946 0.97
Cirilo Oliveira PS-GB 2,036 0.33
Total 615,654 100.00

Source: CNE: http://www.cne-guinebissau.org/resultados.php

The second round of the presidential election is scheduled for 18 May. José Mário Vaz (alias “Jomav”) was finance minister from the PAIGC party until the 2012 coup. He also served as the mayor of the capital, Bissau. Nuno Nabiam is a military-backed[2] bureaucrat who had the support of the late President Kumba Iala. Nabiam broke off from the country’s second largest party, the PRS, to run as an independent candidate. Most members of the armed forces come from the Balanta ethnic group, which makes up about one third of the population. Traditionally, they vote for the PRS.

In the parliamentary election the PAIGC won 55 seats and secured an absolute majority in the 102-member unicameral National Assembly. The second largest party, PRS, won 41 seats, the PCD 2 seats, the PND 1 seat and the UM 1 seat. The PAIGC majority in parliament means the leader of that party’s parliamentary list, Domingos Simões Pereira, will become the next prime minister. Yet, according to the constitution of Guinea-Bissau, it is the president who appoints the prime minister.

Civil vs. military control

The prospect of Vaz being elected president mirrors the 2012 situation where the PAIGC was about to control the presidency and legislature. At the time, the military staged a coup against the PAIGC’s presidential candidate, Carlos Gomes Jr., and appointed a transitional president. Vaz’s political survival will largely depend on his relationship with Guinea-Bissau’s over-powerful military establishment. In the event that the military-backed candidate, Nabiam, wins the presidential elections and the government undertakes steps to reform Guinea-Bissau’s security sector, the president may decide to dismiss the prime minister. Overall, it is unlikely that the military will lose control over civilian authority.

[1] PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde); PRS (Party for Social Renewal); PND (New Democracy Party); PRN (National Reconciliation Party); PRID (Republican Party for Independence and Development); RGB (Guinea-Bissau Resistance); PT (Workers’ Party); PS-GB (Socialist Party of Guinea-Bissau).

[2] Nabiam is close to General António Indjai who is seen by many as the real leader of Guinea-Bissau.