Ecuador Puts Police Under Civilian Control

[Source – Latin American Herald Tribune]

QUITO – A government decree issued this week ends the “pseudo-sovereignty” of Ecuador’s national police and places the force under civilian control, Interior Minister Alfredo Vera said Wednesday.

The move comes in the wake of a Sept. 30 police mutiny that the center-left government characterized as a attempted coup.

The police are now subject to the Interior Ministry, while uniformed officers currently performing administrative tasks are to be shifted to operational duties as civil servants take over desk jobs in compliance with the measure signed Monday by President Rafael Correa.

The decree also gives Vera broad authority for 90 days to carry out a restructuring of the national police, whose assets and budget will be administered by the Interior Ministry.

It is impossible to predict how easy or hard the transition will be, Vera – flanked by police brass – said during a press conference at the force’s headquarters in Quito.

Patricio Franco, named police commander after the events of Sept. 30, said he will hold a series of meetings with individual units to brief them on the changes.

The commander is set to meet Friday with the Quito Regiment, whose members led the mutiny and subsequently besieged Correa in a hospital for hours until loyal cops and troops extracted the president amid a clash that left five people dead.

As the national police are responsible for internal security, it is “logical” the force should answer to civilians inside the Interior Ministry, Vera said.

The force’s previous “pseudo-sovereignty” was unacceptable given that the national police is “tied to the daily development of the life of the Ecuadorian state,” the minister said.