Diego Gomez, Ecuador’s Deputy Defense Minister, announced Wednesday that a military plane from the United States Navy would arrive in the country's port city of Guayaquil ahead of the signing of a binational agreement for permanent flyovers.
“The goal of this cooperation is the fight against drug trafficking, organized crime, human trafficking, illegal fishing, contraband, and, in special cases, for the search of planes and ships facing difficulties,” Gomez explained.
In late April, following a series of kidnappings and violent attacks by armed groups along Ecuador’s northern border with Colombia, the government of Lenin Moreno signed a military cooperation agreement with the U.S. Earlier this year the Ecuadorean government also decided to re-invite the U.S. Office for Security Cooperation, which was expelled in 2014 by Moreno’s predecessor Rafael Correa who argued the U.S. had gained undue influence over Ecuador’s national security institutions.
The current government's closeness to the U.S. government and military institutions has raised concerns. Moreno’s detractors claim that to allow the U.S. Navy to organize flyovers over Ecuadorean territory violated article 5 of the Constitution, which defines Ecuador as “a territory of peace” and “prohibits transferring national military bases to foreign armed or security forces.”
According to Gomez, the government-sanctioned military cooperation that is allowing a foreign military to operate within Ecuadorian borders is “developing in strict compliance with article 158 of the Constitution, which declares the defense of territorial integrity as the fundamental mission of the armed forces.”
Flyovers will go on until September 11.
The government’s political opposition and social organizations have organized a new round of protests against President Moreno and his economic and foreign policy for September 13.