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República del Ecuador
Republic of Ecuador
Ecuador COA
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto:El Ecuador ha sido, es

y será País Amazónico
(Spanish; Ecuador has been, is and shall be an Amazonic country)

Official language Spanish
Other languages Quechua and other Amerindian languages
Capital Quito
Largest City Guayaquil
President Alfredo Palacio 2
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 71st
283,560 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 62nd

 - Date

From Spain

24 May 1822

Currency US dollar1
Time zone UTC -5; UTC -6 (Galápagos Islands)
National anthem Salve, Oh Patria
Internet TLD .ec
Calling Code 593
1 Sucre until 2000.

2 After a coup d'êtat against Lucio Gutiérrez.

The Republic of Ecuador is a country in northwestern South America, bounded by Colombia on the north, by Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean on the west. The country also includes the Galápagos Islands (Archipelago de Colón) in the Pacific, about 965 km (about 600 mi) west of the mainland. Named after the Spanish word for equator, Ecuador straddles the equator and has an area of 272,045 km² (105,037 mi²). Quito is the country’s capital.



Main article: History of Ecuador

Advanced indigenous cultures flourished in Ecuador long before the area was conquered by the Inca empire in the 15th century. In 1531, the Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro arrived and defeated the Inca Emperor Atahualpa and his army during the Battle of Cajamarca in 1532. In subsequent years the Spanish colonists became the new elite. The indigenous population was decimated by disease in the first decades of Spanish rule--a time when the natives also were forced into the "encomienda" labor system for Spanish landlords. In 1563, Quito, Ecuador became the seat of a royal "audiencia" (administrative district) of Spain.

After nearly 300 years of Spanish colonization, Quito was a city of about 10,000 inhabitants, and it was there on August 10, 1809, that the first cry for independence was heard. After independence forces defeated the royalist army in 1822, Ecuador joined Simon Bolivar's Republic of Gran Colombia, only to become a separate republic in 1830.

The 19th century was marked by instability, with a rapid succession of rulers. The conservative Gabriel Garcia Moreno unified the country in the 1860s with the support of the Catholic Church. In the late 1800s, world demand for cocoa tied the economy to commodity exports and led to migrations from the highlands to the agricultural frontier on the coast.

A coastal-based liberal revolution in 1895 under Eloy Alfaro reduced the power of the clergy and opened the way for capitalist development. The end of the cocoa boom produced renewed political instability and a military coup in 1925. The 1930s and 1940s were marked by populist politicians such as five-time President Jose Velasco Ibarra.

Recession and popular unrest led to a return to populist politics and domestic military interventions in the 1960s, while foreign companies developed oil resources in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In 1972, a nationalist military regime seized power and used the new oil wealth and foreign borrowing to pay for a program of industrialization, land reform, and subsidies for urban consumers. With the oil boom fading, Ecuador returned to democracy in 1979, but by 1982, the government faced an economic crisis, characterized by inflation, budget deficits, a falling currency, mounting debt service, and uncompetitive industries.

Since its return to democracy, Ecuador has been marked by chronic governmental instability. Many years of continuous mismanagement, starting with the mishandling of the contry's debt during the 1970's military regime, have left the country escentially ungovernable. By the mid 90's, the government of Ecuador has been characterized by a weak executive branch that struggles to appease the ruling classes, represented in the legislative and judiciary. All democratically elected presidents have failed to finish their terms during that period.

There are many causes for this. The most critical underlying factor is the emergence of native indians (non-mestizo) as an active constituency. As a group, they were pushed into prominence due to government failures to deliver on promises of land reform, lowering unemployment, and historical exploitation of the native populace. Their movement, in turn, started a deterioration of the executive office. Today, the notion that presidents are always in danger of being ousted by a majority in congress, a strike movement, or a combination thereof, is widely accepted. Hence, the president has gone from being the representative of the people to become a convenient scapegoat to politicians and the wealthy for the social ails of the country. Moreover, massive demostrations of civil unrest has started a vicious circle in which presidents who are unwilling or unable to make the necessary moves towards popular policies are ousted; with all the economic and governmental fallout that such a drastic change entails - and which will likely ensnare the next president. Thus, at its current state, ecuadorean presidents will be extremely unlikely to reconcile quality of life improvements with the desires of the social elite who entrenched in congress and other government posts.

Ecuadorean presidents often run on the idea that they will empower the people to overthrow this economic and social inequality. However, the public gives its leader very little political capital to work with, as it happened when in April 2005 Ecuador's Congress ousted President Lucio Gutiérrez. The Vice-President, Alfredo Palacio, took his place and is expected to be in power until the next scheduled election. As of September 2005, Ecuador still has no judicial power and is in the process of rewriting documents that will allow the people to elect the highest court members directly through public election rather than have them assigned by the ruling political party.

Ecuador is home to a number of important artists of the last century, which include Enrique Tabara (b. 1930), Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919-1999), Eduardo Kingman (1913-1998), Aníbal Villacís, Félix Arauz (b. 1935), Camilo Egas, Manuel Rendón Seminario, and Juan Villafuerte (1945-1977).


Main article: Politics of Ecuador

Former Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez.
Former Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez.
Landscape near Ambato, Ecuador
Landscape near Ambato, Ecuador

The constitution provides for concurrent 4-year terms of office for the president, vice president, and members of Congress. Presidents may be re-elected after an intervening term, while legislators may be re-elected immediately.

The executive branch includes 15 ministries. Provincial governors and councilors, like mayors and aldermen and parish boards, are directly elected. Congress meets throughout the year except for recess in July and December. There are twenty 7-member congressional committees. Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Congress for indefinite terms.

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of Ecuador

Ecuador has often placed great emphasis on multilateral approaches to international issues. Ecuador is a member of the United Nations (and most of its specialized agencies) and the Organization of American States (OAS) and also is a member of many regional groups, including the Rio Group, the Latin American Economic System, the Latin American Energy Organization, the Latin American Integration Association, and the Andean Pact.


Main article: Provinces of Ecuador

Ecuador is divided into 22 provinces (capitals are in parantheses):


Map of Ecuador
Map of Ecuador

Main article: Geography of Ecuador

Ecuador has four main geographic regions. These are the Costa (low-lying Pacific coast), the Sierra (mountainous, high-altitude Andean lands), the Oriente (literally, "East"; comprising the Amazonian rainforest areas), and the Galápagos Islands, some 1,000 km west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Ecuador's capital is Quito and its largest city is Guayaquil.


Main article: Economy of Ecuador

Ecuador has substantial petroleum resources and rich agricultural areas. Because the country exports primary products such as oil, bananas, and shrimp, fluctuations in world market prices can have a substantial domestic impact. Industry is largely oriented to servicing the domestic market. Deteriorating economic performance in 1997-98 culminated in a severe economic and financial crisis in 1999. The crisis was precipitated by a number of external shocks, including the El Niño weather phenomenon in 1997, a sharp drop in global oil prices in 1997-98, and international emerging market instability in 1997-98. These factors highlighted the Government of Ecuador's unsustainable economic policy mix of large fiscal deficits and expansionary money policy and resulted in an 7.3% contraction of GDP, annual year-on-year inflation of 52.2% and a 65% devaluation of the national currency in 1999, which helped precipitate an unprecedented default on external loans later that year.

On January 9, 2000, the administration of President Jamil Mahuad announced its intention to adopt the U.S. dollar as the official currency of Ecuador to address the ongoing economic crisis. Subsequent protest led to the removal of Mahuad from office and the elevation of Vice President Gustavo Noboa to the presidency. The adoption of the U.S. dollar as currency, as opposed to pegging a local currency to it, means that the benefits of seigniorage accrue to the U.S. economy whether or not there is any compensation for this.

The Noboa government confirmed its commitment to dollarize as the centerpiece of its economic recovery strategy. The government also entered into negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), culminating in the negotiation of a 12-month stand-by arrangement with the Fund. Additional policy initiatives include efforts to reduce the government's fiscal deficit, implement structural reforms to strengthen the banking system and regain access to private capital markets. Buoyed by high oil prices, the Ecuadorian economy experienced a modest recovery in 2000, with GDP rising 1.9%. However, 70% of the population lives below the poverty line, more than double the rate of 5 years ago. Inflation in 2000 remained high at 96.1%, but the rate of inflation continues to fall. Monthly inflation in February 2001 was 2.9%.


Main article: Demographics of Ecuador

Picture of Iglesia de San Francisco at night, Quito, Ecuador.
Picture of Iglesia de San Francisco at night, Quito, Ecuador.
Ambato marketday, Ecuador
Ambato marketday, Ecuador
Indians on a truck in Ambato, Ecuador
Indians on a truck in Ambato, Ecuador
court of the church Virgen de Agua Santa in Baños, Ecuador
court of the church Virgen de Agua Santa in Baños, Ecuador
Monument of Juan Montalvo in Ambato, Ecuador
Monument of Juan Montalvo in Ambato, Ecuador

Ecuador's population is ethnically diverse. The largest ethnic groups are the Mestizos (those of mixed Spanish and Amerindian ancestry) and constitute just over 65 per cent of the current population. Amerindians are second in numbers and account for approximately a quarter of the people, around 25%. Whites are mainly Creoles, unmixed descendants of Spanish colonists, and account for 7% of the Ecuadorian population. A small minority of Afro-Ecuadorians, including Mulattos and Zambos, constitute the remainder.

Although Ecuadorians were heavily concentrated in the mountainous central highland region a few decades ago, today's population is divided about equally between that area and the coastal lowlands. Migration toward cities--particularly larger cities--in all regions has increased the urban population to about 55%. Due to an economic crisis in the late 1990s, more than 600,000 Ecuadorians emigrated to the U.S. and Europe from 2000 to 2001. The tropical forest region to the east of the mountains remains sparsely populated and contains only about 3% of the population.

Although the constitution demands that 30% of gross revenue be dedicated to education, the government’s stated goal is to dedicate 11% of the budget. It is estimated that gross domestic product (GDP) spending will reach 4% in 2003. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) places adult literacy at 90%, but notes that this rate has been stagnant for more than 10 years. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that only 87% of the primary school teachers and 72% of high school teachers have received training. The public education system is tuition-free, and attendance is mandatory from ages 5 to 14. However, the Ministry of Education reports that only 10% of 5-year-olds actually have access to daily education and that only 66% of youngsters finish 6 years of schooling. In rural areas, only 10% of the youngsters go on to high school. Ministry statistics give the mean number of years completed as 6.7. Ecuador has 61 universities, many of which now offer graduate degrees, although only 18% of the faculty in public universities possess graduate degrees themselves. Public universities have an open admissions policy, but some departments have recently implemented admissions standards. The new Board of Higher Education (CONESUP) is working to promote the introduction of teacher evaluation and a national accreditation system. There are also more than 300 Higher Institutes, offering 2-3 years of post-secondary vocational or technical training. The Higher Education Reform Act transferred oversight of these poorly regulated institutes from the Ministry of Education to the CONESUP.


Main article: Culture of Ecuador

Ecuador's mainstream culture is defined by Ecuador's mestizo majority and, like their ancestry, is a mixture of European and Amerindian influences infused with African elements inherited from slave ancestors. Ecuador's indigenous communities are largely integrated into that mainstream culture to varying degrees, but some may also practise their own autochthonous cultures, particularly the more remote indigenous communities of the Amazon basin.

Famous people born in Ecuador include painters Tabara, Oswaldo Guayasamín, Kingman, Arauz, and Villafuerte, poet and statesman José Joaquín de Olmedo, scholar Benjamín Urrutia, tennis player Pancho Segura, and speed-walker and Olympic gold medalist Jefferson Pérez

See also

External links

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Countries in South America
Argentina · Bolivia · Brazil · Chile · Colombia · Ecuador · Guyana · Panama · Paraguay · Peru · Suriname · Trinidad and Tobago · Uruguay · Venezuela

Dependencies: Falkland Islands (UK) · French Guiana · South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (UK)

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