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Professional Military Education

A Cross-Cultural Survey


Edited By Duraid Jalili and Hubert Annen

This book brings together non-Western viewpoints on military pedagogy and professional military education (PME). In doing so, it seeks to provide a counterbalance to the predominantly European and North American bias found within the research field, as well as generating new insights on Latin American, African and Asian pedagogical commentaries and critiques. The collection contains essays from PME researchers and practitioners across fourteen countries, on subjects including large-scale educational reform, civil-military and academic influences on military pedagogy, internationalisation, cross-cultural collaboration, and interoperability within military education.

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Political Change and Professional Security and Defence Qualifications in Post-Transitional Ecuador (1972–2016)

Diego Pérez Enríquez / Milton Reyes Herrera / Carla Álvarez Velasco

Political Change and Professional Security and Defence Qualifications in Post-Transitional Ecuador (1972–2016)

Abstract: This chapter charts the development of military education in post-transitional Ecuador (1972–2016) and the varied impact of state intermediation on PME reform during periods of shifting legal, economic and political renewal. Focusing largely on the country’s oldest security training institution, the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales (Institute of Higher National Studies – IAEN), it demonstrates how the evolution of Ecuador’s military education system is representative of a historical process of rapprochement between the armed forces and the strategic political level of the state. It argues that this has resulted in a level of integration of civilians within military education, designed to aid dialogue and enhanced decision-making across the civil-military divide. It concludes, however, that recent legal, institutional and political reforms in Ecuador make it difficult to predict the end result of this process.

Keywords: PME, military education, Armed Forces of Ecuador, Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales, IAEN, civil-military relations, educational reform


This chapter deals with the security and defence education process in post-transitional Ecuador, from a qualitative perspective with a structural historic approach. Its main focus is the development of the professional qualification approach at the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales (Institute of Higher National Studies – IAEN). It will include official and quantitative data, in addition to information obtained through the so-called customary practice and everyday life. Specifically, it will analyse the impact of political changes on the military education system within Ecuador, from the military coup of General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara, through the Latin American debt crisis, to the revolutionary developmentalist government of Rafael Correa.

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To achieve this, it is first necessary to understand the particular role played by the military sector in Ecuador’s history. Until 1976, the armed forces stood for an agenda of direct intervention in state politics, which was encapsulated in their ambivalent position towards the excess of oligarchic and plutocratic projects, and their goal of extending the political and economic participation of the subordinate sectors (i.e. the proletariat) and establishing a viable democratic model. This approach was demonstrated by the role of the armed forces during conflicts such as the 1925 Revolución Juliana (Julian Revolution), which resulted in the end of the liberal oligarchic project, the “La Gloriosa” rebellion of 1944, which resulted in the fall of Carlos Arroyo del Río’s authoritarian liberal government, and the promotion of agrarian reform during the military junta government from 1963 to 1966 (Gándara Enríquez, 1980, p.179; Maldonado Donoso, 1980, p.393; Loveman, 1999, p.189).

In 1972, the military coup of General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara led to a confrontation between the existing state apparatus, which had encouraged the bureaucratic specialization of institutions in the classic Weberian style (Weber, 1964, p.698) and a form of military control implemented over that of the state apparatus (Rouquié, 1982, p.402). This military intervention over the state, and the search for control over all levels of government meant that, for the first time in its history, the Ecuadorian state was the direct owner of the revenue generated by its oil resources (its main export product).

In line with this, the revolutionary nationalist government tried to implement a developmentalist project that would modernize the state, strengthen its industrial productive capabilities, expand the role of the middle class in the national economy, and incorporate new sectors of the population within the market. This was all part of a vision proposed and developed by civil and military actors, which was designed to achieve greater intermediation of the state in relation to both national and global affairs (Filosofía y plan de acción del gobierno revolucionario, 1972; Bocco, 1987, pp.159–160; García, 2003, pp.120–123). The government consolidated its legitimacy through a close relationship with the Ecuadorian middle classes. This relationship allowed it to establish a process of economic and political reconfiguration, through which it was able to maintain its key visions until 2006 (North, 2006). As part of this, ←82 | 83→the government sought to strengthen regional integration, which, at that time, found its first manifestation in the Acuerdo de Cartagena (Cartagena Agreement) of 1969.

Regionally, the official political narratives of military governments from the ‘Southern Cone’ of Latin America must be distinguished from those in Ecuador. In line with the United States’ overarching strategy of neutralizing the expansion of communism in the region, for example, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay developed repressive political systems structured around the concept of an internal enemy. During this same period the Ecuadorian military project was centred upon the principle that the state’s main focus should be to achieve “economic and social development” (Gobierno del Ecuador, 1972). This objective would require enhanced capabilities to contain internal and external threats to the state’s security. The main concern was the lack of a definitively set border with Peru, which resulted in a war in 1941 and subsequent confrontations in 1981 (the “Paquisha” conflict) and 1995 (the “Cenepa” war).1 Thus, the military government focused their defence politics on the traditional notion of territorial management, emphasizing the prevention of threats to national sovereignty and the generation of capabilities that would allow for a successful territorial defence.

Civil-Military Inclusivity in Ecuadorian Military Education

The politico-military focus hitherto described resulted in the foundation of three university centres dedicated to professional education in the field of defence and security that permitted the participation of civilian officials (rather than just military officers). These institutions were the Universidad de Fuerzas Armadas - Escuela Politécnica del Ejército (The Army University – ESPE), the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (Latin American Social Sciences Institute – FLACSO), and the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales (Institute of Higher National Studies – IAEN). This focus on increasing civilian inclusion was encapsulated by the ESPE, that had evolved from the Escuela de Ingenieros ←83 | 84→del Ejército (Army Engineer School) founded in 1922 and was historically oriented exclusively towards army officials. In 1972, however, its admissions and offerings were extended to include students from the civil society. In 1976, it acquired the status of Escuela Politécnica, and since 2013 it has been constituted as the Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas (ESPE, n.d.).

The Higher Education Organic Law of 2010 (Ley Orgánica de Educación Superior, 2010) and the related legislation precipitated this transformation, with the intention of centralizing the professional qualification centres of the three military forces within an overarching institution. This act was consolidated with the approval of a statute in 2013 (ESPE, n.d.). By 2016, there were 44 undergraduate and 9 postgraduate programs, of which 5 were technology degrees, 5 were bachelor’s degrees and 1 was a specialization related to the military profession. These programs were designed to provide bachelor’s degrees for army and navy officials, technology degrees for air force officials, and postgraduate degrees to officers of the ‘Joint Staff Course’ through the Instituto Nacional de Defensa (National Defence Institute). All of these programs feature collaboration between the civilian and military faculty.

In addition to the ESPE, the FLACSO possessed a master’s research degree in 2016 in international relations with an emphasis on security and human rights, which was designed to:

“Train professionals with the theoretical and methodological skills needed to understand the dynamics of current international processes and inform decision-making processes, research and teaching in the area of international studies.” (FLACSO, 2016)

Founded in 1974, through an agreement between the Ecuadorian state and the FLACSO international system (FLACSO, n.d.), this university has traditionally been linked with the topics of security and defence. In fact, between 2005 and 2010, until it was upgraded to the postgraduate level by the Higher Education Organic Law (Ley Orgánica de Educación Superior, 2010), FLACSO maintained a ‘Diploma Program in Politics, Security and Democracy’, which was accessed by many senior officials of the armed forces. The Institution’s research in this area has also been very influential and its prestige as an academic institution has resulted in the organization gaining a reputation as one of the thought leaders in the field.

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However, it is in the country’s oldest security training institution, the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales, that we find the most symbolic example of this national movement towards increased civilian inclusivity in military education. Founded in May 1972, in the first year of Rodriguez Lara’s dictatorship, the character of the IAEN is representative of the central planning and nationalist-revolutionary characteristics of the government and military through which it was formed. Organically, the IAEN was a part of the secretariat of the National Security Council and its function consisted of training the leaders and statesmen of the Ecuadorian state. Since its origins, the institution has taught graduate courses on security and development that included 35 consecutive cohorts of the ‘Master’s Degree in Security and Development’, taught between 1973 and 2007. These programs exceeded the minimum requirements set by Ecuador’s Higher Education Law, and were taught across the course of a full year (Álvarez, 2008, p.35).2

The study programmes at the IAEN were designed to be full-time, so that students could dedicate themselves exclusively to academic life. They were also oriented to both civilian and military officials, from the public and private sectors. The largest number of students at the IAEN, however, came from the public sector and, out of these students, approximately 35 % were military and police officers. Within this subgroup, the army provided the largest number of officials, with 41 % (Álvarez, 2011, p.36).3 ←85 | 86→In line with these origins and demographics, the habitus (see Bourdieu, 2006, p.44) of the IAEN tends towards a corporate-military type. The social tensions and contradictions contained within the institution, therefore, are similar to those found across the armed forces and incorporated within the construction of the wider state and its institutions.

The Debt Crisis and Its Repercussions

By the 1980s, the Latin American debt crisis that had resulted from foreign debt and the limited purchasing power of Latin American countries resulted in a programme of cuts across state institutions in Ecuador in search of a so-called structural adjustment. The effects of this crisis were further deepened by the damage caused from natural disasters such as El Niño in 1982–1983 and the Ecuadorian earthquakes of 1987. Indeed, the latter event resulted in an estimated $1 billion worth of damage to the Ecuadorian economy (ECLAC, 1987, p.26). It is noteworthy, therefore, that the IAEN seemed to go through this period without any major impact on either its budgets, or its symbolic and academic prestige.

In fact, during this period the IAEN even maintained one of its original missions: to provide thought leadership to the National Security Council for the design of the ‘Concepto estratégico de la defensa’ (Defence Strategic Concept), as well as ongoing analysis of current national and international situations. These inputs were derived from the work carried out by its students, military personnel at the rank of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and public servants strategically positioned in all state institutions.

However, the 1990s resulted in some notable changes to this situation. Budget cuts were deepened by Sixto Durán Ballén’s government (1992–1996), in which reforms of a clearly neoliberal inclination were introduced and technocratic perspectives became predominant (Andrade, 2009, p.57). In this period, there occurred a dual movement that transpired at different rates of speed:←86 | 87→

The maintenance and relative increase of investment in the budgets of the armed forces (especially in the context of renewed armed conflict with Peru in 1995);

The start of a slow decline of the IAEN, visible in the lack of a more diverse master’s program offering, diminishing prestige and reduced input into planning and policy in the field of security and development.

With the signing of a peace agreement with Peru in 1998, the need to maintain the defence sector budget began to be publicly questioned. Indeed, among radical liberal-idealist sectors, the very existence of the armed forces in Ecuador was queried. In addition to this, there was a deepening of the rationale of public sector divestment by subsequent governments, in line with the orthodox fiscal arguments of liberal economists. Taking into account these contexts, at the beginning of the 21st century, the IAEN was faced with a scenario of declining academic and teaching offerings in comparison to the first decades of its establishment. Specifically, its previous programmes were reduced to one single master’s degree, made available to a limited number of decision makers, and only run every two years.

This ‘Master’s Degree in Security and Development’ at the IAEN offered training and the first means of interaction between the state intelligentsia. This was done with the goal of creating officials within the military and the State Planning and Security Directorates (DIPLASEDE), who had detailed knowledge of the functioning of the state and, above all, its strategic objectives. In practice, particularly in the mid-1990s, government institutions began to send problematic and demotivated officials and those in the late-stages of their careers to the DIPLASEDE (and consequently the IAEN). Exceptions apply to this trend, of course, but this scenario substantially affected the level of discussion within the programme. The military, on the other hand, maintained participation within the master’s programme at the highest level.

Towards the Overcoming of the Neoliberal Vision

Reminiscent of the revolutionary developmentalist government mentioned previously, the centre-left social democratic government formed by Rafael Correa and the Alianza PAIS, which took power at the start of 2007 in the Revolución Ciudadana (Citizen’s Revolution), undertook an increasing ←87 | 88→process of state intermediation. This was reflected in the endowment of greater regulatory capacities. The government, which would maintain power until May 2017, welcomed a series of visions that could be described as neo-developmentalist. This included the reduction of social inequality, creation of infrastructure, institutional strengthening and the resizing of the political system (Verdesoto, 2014, p.243). These activities matched the original philosophy and action plan of the 1972 revolutionary government (Filosofía y plan de acción del gobierno revolucionario y nacionalista del Ecuador, 1972).

This new government also resulted in a shift in the overall vision of national security in Ecuador. As argued by Buzan, Waever and De Wilde (1998, p.8), the liberal security agenda is built around economic, environmental, social, political and military concerns, and it incorporates and debates the proposals of human security, multidimensional security and integral security (as exist in international regimes). This conceptual framework is observable in Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution (Constitución de la República de Ecuador, 2008) as well as its State and Public Security Law (Ley de Seguridad Pública y del Estado, 2009). However, this legal structure is further complicated by the Ministry of National Defence’s “Agenda Política de Defensa” (Political Defence Agenda), in which there is an attempt to build a vision of national security centred around the concept of good living, also known as el buen vivir or sumak kawsay (Ministerio Coordinador de Seguridad Interna y Externa, 2008, pp.23–24; Celi, 2009, p.100; Secretaría Nacional de Planificación y Desarrollo, 2013, p.315; Ministerio Coordinador de Seguridad, 2014, p.56; Pérez, 2014, p.153). As outlined in the government’s “National Plan for Good Living” (Secretaría Nacional de Planificación y Desarrollo, 2010, p.6):

“Good Living is based on a vision that surpasses the narrow confines of quantitative economicism and challenges the notion of material, mechanical and endless accumulation of goods. Instead the new paradigm promotes an inclusive, sustainable, and democratic economic strategy; one that incorporates actors historically excluded from the capitalist, market-driven logic of accumulation and (re)distribution. Similarly, […] Good Living posits that humans should use natural resources in a way that allows their natural generation (or regeneration.)”

This multi-faceted vision for national security constitutes a theoretical framework through which an initial approach to defence and security ←88 | 89→education in Ecuador can be constructed. The themes that emerge from this framework can be translated into the components of specific curricula or programmes of study. To highlight this, we will now consider the changes in professional qualification programmes within the IAEN.

In 2008, the Government of Ecuador redefined the IAEN’s purpose and entrusted it with the responsibility of providing postgraduate education for the country’s civil servants. In line with these changes, which were stipulated in Executive Decree No. 1011, published in the Official Register No. 320 of April 21st, 2008, the IAEN gained legal status as a postgraduate academic institution that is part of the National System of Higher Education attached to the National Development and Planning Secretary (SENPLADES). Its purpose is to offer the academic and research support necessary for the professional education and specialization of officers, civil servants and other persons involved in the public services, so that they can provide services with competence, professionalism and honesty for the good of the country’s development.

As a result of this change, an exhaustive re-evaluation of the professional qualification programs taught up until that point was performed, and it was decided to discontinue the master’s degree in security and development due to its academic frailty. As mentioned by Álvarez (2008, p.36), the MSD-35 curricular structure possessed significant weaknesses in various areas including the theoretical instruments used, the teaching of analytical and critical perspectives, the development of students’ investigative capabilities, and the logic and structure of activities such as national and international trips (which offered few contributions to the students’ knowledge, or their investigative, analytical and critical capabilities).

With the Higher Education Organic Law in 2010, the IAEN acquired the status of a state postgraduate university (Ley Orgánica de Educación Superior, 2010, Disposiciones Generales - Novena). This new definition strengthened the institution’s administrative and academic autonomy, allowing access to resources that had been previously denied to the university, and thus increasing its capacity to fulfil demands for professional qualifications found in the public sector. In line with this, new curricular plans were created in various subject matters of interest to the Ecuadorian public sector.

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During this process of restructuring and reform, in 2010, the core security course was reopened with a curriculum valid until 2015, but now entitled the ‘Master’s Degree in Security and Defence’. The change in the denomination, however, did not affect the essence of the programme.4 In addition to the thematic innovations of these reforms, the IAEN began to hire faculty members with doctoral degrees (or those in the advanced stages of obtaining such degrees), including both local and foreign professionals. In 2011, an important scholarship fund (named the ‘academic excellence scholarships’) was initiated to finance the tuition, maintenance and research projects of those students within relevant state universities who displayed high academic capabilities. The new ‘call for studies’ was open to the general public, civil servants, and officials from the armed forces and the national police.

Since 2011 the master’s degree programme in security and defence has tried to maintain its academic quality and its links with military and police institutions, as well as supporting the requirements of civil servants with an interest in the field (see Fig. 5.1). The results are ambiguous. This uncertain scenario can be attributed to a series of institutional tensions within ←90 | 91→the IAEN, as well as a growing tension between the armed forces and the national government in the last years of Rafael Correa’s political rule. It is also influenced perhaps by the number and speed of changes introduced by the government. For example, during this period the pedagogical model adopted by the IAEN – as well as other universities in the country – had to be quickly adjusted to match a curriculum that was centred around a specific framework of competencies drawn from the guidelines of the governing institutions of higher education in the country, including the Secretaría de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (Secretariat of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation – SENESCYT) and the Consejo de Educación Superior (Higher Education Council – CES).

The rapid evolution of the IAEN, however, has led to the creation of specific programmes that have responded promptly to various national security issues, including public drug policy, risk management and human security. These programs have increased the depth and complexity of postgraduate research and education undertaken at the IAEN. In addition to these courses, in early 2011 the IAEN, in collaboration with FLACSO, developed and implemented the Curso de Alto Mando (High Command Course). This course was designed to fulfil the mission of the Instituto Nacional de Defensa (National Institute of Defence – INADE) to deepen the preparation of military officers in positions of high command requiring strategic-political leadership (i.e. those with the rank of Major General, Rear Admiral and Air Vice Marshal). The course focused on problems relating to the structure of the Ecuadorian state, its legal and normative frameworks, security theories, state conflicts, economy, globalization, international relations and strategic planning. It was taught part-time, over the course of 4 weeks, through a combination of lectures, debates and workshops. The teachers responsible for the course were experts in their fields of study, including both Ecuadorians and other nationalities.

Despite these new programmes, it is important to point out that neither the IAEN nor the two other universities mentioned have job placement programmes for their graduates. As a result, their security courses are not well attended due to the low expectations currently held by university graduates regarding the country’s weakened labour market, and the ←91 | 92→perceived lack of benefits that university-level competencies will provide within this market. In spite of this, the contemporary political decision to transfer control of security and defence matters to the civilian sectors could increase broader interest within Ecuadorian society in specializing in these areas. Currently, however, as far as the fields of security and defence are concerned, there is still a significant lack of knowledge in Ecuadorian society in general, including amongst those people who hold positions of responsibility and who make decisions on such matters. This often results in weak, non-technical, non-innovative and heavily politicized public debates regarding the national security and defence agenda.


What conclusions can be drawn from these curricular changes and the historical evolution of Ecuador’s military education system in general? A preliminary evaluation of the changes made allows us to suggest that Ecuador attempted a process of rapprochement between the armed forces and the strategic political level of the state. Through education, it tried to provide greater cohesion between the political guidelines of the Ministry of Defence and the functions of the armed forces, and to improve the decision-making process of both organizations.

In the last decade, the Ecuadorian state has sought to engender a profound process of legal, institutional and political reform that has directly impacted upon teaching structures in the field of security and defence. This situation, like every process of renewal, presents challenges and opportunities that must be evaluated. This can only be done with the collaboration of all the institutions linked to the security and defence sectors and the social, political and academic officials who are connected to these topics. Evidently, the changes that have been undertaken are very recent and so their implementation still generates debate. This makes it difficult to analyse or fully predict the course of the reforms, and presents a scenario with a level of instability. At the very least, however, it can be said that in the new security and defence programme of the IAEN, a dialogue has been built between perspectives from constructivism, critical theory and realism, as well as the perspectives promoted by the liberal security agenda (such as the concepts of integral security and good living).

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Álvarez, C. (2008). Informe de Evaluación de la Maestría en Seguridad y Desarrollo. Unpublished document for internal use, IAEN, Quito.

Álvarez, C. (2011) Educación en Seguridad y Defensa para el Ecuador. Paper presented at the Educación de la Seguridad y Defensa en las Américas seminar, Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, Washington D.C.

Andrade, P. (2009). La era neoliberal y el proyecto republicano: la recreación del Estado en el Ecuador contemporáneo, 1992–2006. Quito: Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar/Corporación Editora Nacional.

Bocco, A. (1987). Auge petrolero, modernización y subdesarrollo: El Ecuador de los años setenta. Quito: Corporación Editora Nacional.

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1 This conflict was resolved with territorial delimitation and the signing of a peace agreement in 1998.

2 The planned curriculum structure of the IAEN’s traditional master’s degree in security and development, for example, was composed of 8 modules, lasting approximately 1.5 months each. Within these programs, there were around 34 subjects that were taught as lectures or as ‘committees’, the latter of which provided a specialized discussion forum and thematic workgroup on specific matters (Álvarez, 2008, p.15). Additionally, extracurricular activities included study tours in Ecuador and one international trip. The purpose of these trips was to enable students to get to know the economic, political, social and defence situation of Ecuador and other countries.

3 The trend of under-representation of air force and navy officers within the IAEN student body – according to conversations with officials from the institution – is due to the fact that their operational centres are located outside of Quito, where the university headquarters are located. Moreover, while navy and army officers have historically met the minimum academic requirements for a master’s programme, Air force officers were unable to meet the bachelor’s requirement. In addition to this, the relatively smaller quantity of officers in the institution made it more difficult for the government to issue permits for them to study full time.

4 Although later in the year a reform was introduced that altered the program into a research degree.