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SOUTHCOM Chief: United States Has A ‘5-Year Plan’ For Ecuador

Above photo: US SOUTHCOM Commander General Laura Richardson, accompanied by US presidential Adviser on Western Hemisphere Christopher Dodd, meets with Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa. X/@USEmbassyEC.

The commander of the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), General Laura Richardson, stated that the United States has a “five-year plan” in terms of security for Ecuador.

“There are several things that we have done very recently with Ecuador,” General Richardson said in an interview with the Ecuadorian media Primicius on Tuesday, January 23. “For example, we have the Security Assistance Roadmap, called ESAR, with Ecuador. There is only one other country in the region with which we have signed this roadmap.”

According to Richardson, the ESAR is a five-year plan that outlines “cooperation in security matters,” and it includes a binational working group to facilitate the exchange “between the Pentagon and Ecuador.”

She also detailed that for the fiscal year 2024, which started on October 1, 2023 in the US, the SOUTHCOM has “a total of 124 activities planned in Ecuador.”

Richardson arrived in Ecuador on January 22 and since then has met with President Daniel Noboa, Attorney General Diana Salazar, Defense Minister Giancarlo Loffredo, Minister of Government and Interior Monica Palencia, and the high commands of the Armed Forces and the Police, as well as other high-level Ecuadorian officials. This is her second visit to Ecuador, after the first one in September 2022, when Guillermo Lasso was the president of Ecuador.

In the interview, Richardson, who was accompanied on this visit by Christopher Dodd, US President Joe Biden’s advisor for the Western Hemisphere, said that the trip focused “on security and the current situation in Ecuador” as well as “the tremendous efforts to counteract criminal activity,” referring to Noboa’s decision to declare an internal armed conflict and identify 22 gangs as terrorist organizations.

“We will donate almost a million dollars in much needed equipment,” Richardson explained, adding that the two countries have “a very solid investment portfolio” of $93.4 million in military forces cooperation between the US Southern Command and the Ecuadorian Army. This includes transfer of military equipment, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, professional military education, cyber assistance training, special forces exchange, among other topics.

Richardson stated that, in addition to the ESAR, other agreements have been signed between Quito and Washington, such as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which establishes the framework under which US military personnel operate in another country. This is the so-called “navigator agreement” which, according to Richardson, allows Ecuadorian law enforcement to be on US vessels.

Similarly, the Joint Interagency Task Force South, which is based in Key West, Florida, for the detection and monitoring of illicit maritime and aerial drug trafficking, has been conducting missions in the Galapagos Islands.

“We want to strengthen security for Ecuador,” Richardson emphasized. “We want to help Ecuador through this, and it is not just Ecuador, but all the other countries in the region that are being challenged by these criminal threats, climate change, drought, food insecurity, disaster response, irregular migration.”

Indigenous movement asks for transparency in US-Ecuador military agreements

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) urged President Noboa to make transparent the agreements signed with the United States, in the framework of the internal armed conflict.

“As peoples and nationalities, we exhort President Noboa and his government to make transparent the agreements that are signed, and the extent of US interference in the decisions of the Ecuadorian State,” the organization said in a statement issued on Tuesday, January 23.

CONAIE stated that one year ago, on January 19, 2023, SOUTHCOM head General Richardson made reference to Washington’s interest in maintaining its presence in Latin America.

At that time, Richardson said, “Why is this region important? With all its rich resources and rare earth elements, you have the lithium triangle, which is today necessary for technology. Sixty percent of the world’s lithium is in the lithium triangle: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile.” She also alluded to “the largest oil reserves” in the world which are in Venezuela, as well as “the Amazon, the lungs of the world,” and “31% of the world’s fresh water.”

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