After World War II, Ecuador was characterized
by economic upturns, thanks first to banana exports and
later to oil recovery. The country was ruled
periodically by the military, but from 1979 the regime
became civil. However, financial problems contributed to
political concerns. Indigenous peoples and residents of
the oil-rich provinces protested to gain a greater share
of the income from natural resources. Between 1997 and
2005, three presidents were forced out before the end of
the term of office. However, with left-wing politician
Rafael Correa taking office in 2007, a period of
political stability began.
The rise of the country's banana exports after the
Second World War created economic prosperity in Ecuador.
When the banana price dropped in the early 1960s, the
economic crisis and strikes erupted. The military fought
the strikes and in 1963 took power for three years.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Ecuador. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Oil was found in northeastern Ecuador in 1967 and a
few years later, the oil company Texaco began
extraction. Suspicions that politicians would use oil
revenues for private gain contributed to the military
regaining power in 1972, under General Rodríguez Lara.
The military regime implemented social and economic
reforms, but these had little effect except for the
growth of the public sector. The investment in domestic
industry drew farmers to the cities. A new economic
crisis arose, with austerity and strikes. Demands for a
return to democracy increased, and from the 1979
presidential election, Ecuador has had civilian rule.
The then elected president, Jaime Roldós, died in a
plane crash in 1981 and Vice President Osvaldo Hurtado
took over. The economic situation worsened and new
austerities caused more protests. The crisis paved the
way for right-wing populist León Febres, who won the
1984 presidential election with promises of "bread, roof
over his head and work". But his neoliberal policy of
liberalization and cuts in government spending ended in
yet another economic crisis, after the oil price
collapsed in 1986.
The 1988 election was won by leftist politician
Rodrigo Borja, who promised, with gradual social
reforms, to pay "the debt of society" to half the
population living in poverty. The state apparatus grew
and a campaign to increase literacy was started. But
neither was Borja able to avoid austerity, and people's
deteriorating purchasing power led to a series of larger
Durán and "El Loco"
In the early 1990s, the indigenous movement conducted
large protest marches and demanded land and changes in
the constitution. Parts of the indigenous peoples'
demands were heeded, but plans for unfavorable land
reform were met with new protests. Right-wing President
Sixto Durán, who won the 1992 election, made cuts in the
public sector and privatized state-owned companies. It
enabled renegotiation of the foreign loans but also
caused protests, organized by the unions and the
The right-wing populist and former Guayaquil mayor
Abdalá Bucarám won the 1996 presidential election with
promising promises. He said he represented the poor and
received their support, but pursued an economic policy
that favored Guayaquil's business in the first place.
Substantial price increases on electricity, gas,
telephone and transport triggered new protests.
Bucaram's bizarre rule - he was called El Loco,
the madman - gave him more and more enemies. In early
1997, a general strike was carried out and hundreds of
thousands of protesters in Quito demanded the departure
of the president. Congress then set aside Bucarám, after
only six months. The official explanation was that he
was suffering from mental health problems, but he was
also accused of corruption and brother-in-law and for
drawing a shimmer of laughter over his office. Congress
appointed former President Fabián Alarcón as interim
Alarcón largely continued Bucaram's economic policy,
leading to new protests and strikes across the country
in 1997. When his tenure was over the following year, he
was arrested, charged with corruption, but released in
the absence of evidence.
The 1998 presidential election was won by Quito's
Christian Democratic Former Mayor Jamil Mahuad. He
initially enjoyed great popularity, not least after a
peace agreement with Peru was concluded in 1998 (see
Foreign Policy and Defense). But Mahuad soon emerged as
indecisive of growing contradictions in the government
and a steadily deteriorating economy with severe banking
crisis and violent social unrest as a result.
The government tried to solve the crisis with new
cuts in the public sector, increased fuel prices, tax
reform and privatization. Congress rejected the
austerity package, which was also met by the general
strike of the labor movement. Mahuad responded in July
1999 with an exception. The crisis was resolved when the
president agreed to a fuel price halt.
Following a dramatic fall in the exchange rate,
sucre, in January 2000, Mahuad decided to replace it
with the US dollar. Violent protests followed, led by
the Indigenous People's Conaie. The congress was
occupied by thousands of people demanding the
resignation of the president. With the support of the
military, he was deposed and a "national rescue
government" was formed by the commander-in-chief, the
Supreme Court's former chairman and Conai's leader. They
handed over power to Vice President Gustavo Noboa within
a day. Even Noboa's presidency until the 2002 elections
became dramatic with popular protests and state of
The president's promises are not there
The 2002 presidential election was won by one of the
cup leaders from 2000, Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez. However,
the president lacked support in Congress which made it
almost impossible for him to get through his politics.
Among other things, Gutiérrez had promised cheaper
housing and duty-free healthcare, but, like the
representatives, was forced to try to tighten government
spending to reduce the budget deficit and pay off the
external debt. As a result, Gutiérrez's collaboration
with the indigenous Pachakutik movement burst in the
fall of 2003.
The president's party was also accused of receiving
campaign grants from a person suspected of conspiring
with the cocaine cartels in Colombia. The opposition to
Gutiérrez grew among the indigenous peoples as well as
the military and the leftist parties who had supported
him in the electoral movement. The opposition began to
act to get the president dismissed, but still lacked
sufficient support in Congress.
At the end of 2004, Gutiérrez managed to get the
majority of judges in the Supreme Court, the
Constitutional Court and the Supreme Electoral Authority
dismissed. They were all appointed by the opposition.
The president himself appointed new judges but promised
reform of the entire judicial system.
In 2005, the Supreme Court dropped the charge of
corruption against former President Bucarám. Gutiérrez's
predecessor Gustavo Noboa was also freed from suspicions
of crime. The decision triggered violent demonstrations
and Gutiérrez felt compelled to revoke the new
appointments to the court.
After a week of popular protests, the opposition
managed to gather the two-thirds majority in Congress
required to unseat Gutiérrez, who in April 2005 became
the third president in eight years to be kicked out. He
was replaced by Vice President Alfredo Palacio. He had
even weaker support in Congress than the representative
and had great difficulties in putting together a
government. At the same time, he got the unions against
In August 2005, violent protests erupted in the
oil-producing provinces in the east. The protesters
demanded that a larger part of the oil revenues be
invested to create new jobs in the region. For a period,
most of the oil production was stopped. The President
announced a state of emergency. Finally, a deal was
reached, in which the oil companies promised to meet
several of the activists' demands and the state of
emergency was lifted.
On two occasions in early 2006, the state of
emergency was again introduced in the oil-producing
provinces after strikes took control of oil sources and
demanded better working conditions and that wages that
were not paid would be paid.
About the same time, Conaie organized nationwide
demonstrations to protest the government's plans to
conclude a free trade agreement with the United States.
Behind the protests were fears that cheap imports from
the United States would hurt the Ecuadorian economy and
create problems for small farmers.
Left Correa to power
In the 2006 presidential election, left-wing
politician and former finance minister Rafael Correa
triumphed over banana magnate Álvaro Noboa, the
country's richest man. Noboa's party became the largest
in the congressional elections. Correa's own newly
formed party, the País Alliance (AP), did not run in the
Correa went to the election with promises of a
"citizen revolution" that would repay the "social debt"
that Ecuador says he had to the poor majority. A new
constitution would ensure a more equitable distribution
of resources and a dissolution of the corrupt political
establishment, through changes in the judiciary and the
By a referendum in April 2007, a decision was made to
appoint a Constituent Assembly with the task of drafting
a constitutional proposal. It took some time before the
congregation could be appointed, due to major
contradictions between Correa's support party AP and the
opposition in Congress. When the election was finally
held in September, AP received as many as 80 out of the
130 seats. At its first meeting in November, the new
assembly dismissed Congress and assumed legislative
In September 2008, the constitutional proposal was
approved in a referendum. The new constitution meant
greater powers for the president and the government, at
the expense of the legislative assembly (see Political
system). The constitution also gave the state greater
control over such things as mining, telecommunications
and the oil industry. The state was also given the right
to confiscate certain agricultural land. In addition,
healthcare was allowed free of charge for older,
same-sex partnerships and some foreign loans could be
canceled and more. The Constitution came into force in
Correa also tried to fulfill its election promise to
renegotiate the contracts with the oil companies. In the
fall of 2007, he issued a decree giving the Ecuadorian
state a larger share of the profits of foreign oil
companies. Oil revenues went to social initiatives to
support poor families and improvements in health care,
schooling and infrastructure. Ecuador rejoined the
oil-producing countries' organization Opec, which left
the country in 1992.
In the 2009 presidential election, Correa already won
in the first round. He became the first President of
Ecuador to be re-elected at all. AP also won big in the
election to the new National Assembly
The coup attempt?
In September 2010, a riot broke out among the
country's police in protest of deteriorating pay
conditions. Police, among other things, occupied the
National Assembly and personally attacked President
Correa, forcing him to seek hospital care. In
military-police clashes, two people were killed and some
70 were injured. According to Correa, it was a coup
attempt. The country's highest police chief resigned
A few months later, Correa announced a referendum
with ten questions. Half of them concerned changes in
the constitution and, according to critics, would
strengthen the president's power over the judiciary and
the media. The referendum was held in May 2011 and
Correa received support at all points, albeit with a
much narrower margin than expected. Many interpreted the
outcome as a success for the president's opponents, not
least for indigenous peoples and left-wing groups who
had previously supported Correa but have now begun to
In 2012, Correa ended up in open conflict with the
country's largest indigenous organization, Conaie. The
conflict involved an agreement with a Chinese company on
a huge copper mining project in the Amazon, a project
that Conaie feared would lead to environmental
degradation. Several of Correa's former allies accused
him of abandoning his political roots and increasingly
affiliated with large international companies that run
In the 2013 elections, Correa again won the first
round of elections. The chief challenger was Guillermo
Lasso, formerly politically independent finance
minister. The AP received more than half of the votes
and over two-thirds of the mandate of the National
Assembly - and thus the opportunity to make amendments
to the constitution on its own.
The victory was largely a result of the political
stability Correa managed to create in Ecuador, after
decades of turmoil and coups. The "citizen revolution"
had led to significant improvements in living conditions
for the country's poor. Growth in the economy was good,
largely thanks to oil and generous loans from China. The
country experienced greater political stability than
ever before in modern times. At the same time, critics
accused the president of increasing power and to limit
the opposition's room for maneuver and the freedom of
The election results sparked speculation that the AP
intended to implement a constitutional amendment that
would allow Correa to post for another term in office.
In 2014, it became increasingly clear that the
Government Party intended to do just that. It became an
increasingly hot domestic policy issue. The opposition
demanded a referendum on any constitutional changes, but
received no hearing for it.
At the end of 2015, the National Assembly adopted a
package of constitutional amendments, including the
removal of re-election restrictions for the president.
But the change would not take effect until 2021, and
Correa maintained earlier assurances that he was not a
candidate in the next election. Eventually, AP instead
appointed former Vice President Lenín Moreno as its
presidential candidate in the 2017 election.