Ecuadorian President-elect Rafael Correa appointed this week seven women to his Cabinet, including the country's first female Defence minister, saying he wanted to promote gender equality.
The new Defence minister, Guadalupe Larriva, will also be the first armed forces chief who has never served in the military. "Ecuador will really become a democracy when all the institutions of the state are clearly subject to civilian society," Correa told reporters. "That is why it is very important to break the tradition of having a former officer in charge of the Defence Ministry and naming a civilian, and if possible a woman." In other appointments to his 17-member Cabinet, Correa named women to head Foreign Affairs, Health, Housing, and Social Welfare ministries. He said he would keep outgoing President Alfredo Palacio's ministers of Tourism and the Environment, the only women in the current Cabinet. Correa, who takes office January 15, said he would "try to achieve gender equality." He acknowledged it was "something we are not going to reach, but at least we will get close." Larriva, president of the Socialist Party, said she expected more "curiosity" than animosity from Ecuador's military brass "over whether a woman can lead in this role". Retired army Colonel Luis Hernandez, a military analyst, called Larriva's appointment "positive" and said Ecuador's armed forces were prepared to take orders from a woman. Soon after his election in November, Correa named two economists considered left leaning, to his Cabinet, Ricardo Patino as Finance minister and Alberto Acosta as Energy minister. Gustavo Larrea, Correa's campaign manager was named Interior minister. Larrea will be tasked with a national referendum on a special assembly to draft a new constitution, a process similar to one underway in Bolivia under leftist President Evo Morales.