Ecuador is a country located in South America. With the capital city of Quito, Ecuador has a population of 17,643,065 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. 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.
- ABBREVIATIONFINDER: 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. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Ecuador.
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 strikes.
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 indigenous movement.
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 president.
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 emergency.
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 him.
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 congressional elections.
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 legislative assembly.
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 power.
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 October 2008.
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 afterwards.
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 question him.
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 large-scale projects.
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 media.
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.