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World > South America > Ecuador > Historical Highlights (Notes)

Ecuador - Historical Highlights (Notes)


HISTORY, GOVERNMENT, AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The Inca Empire and Spanish Conquest
Advanced indigenous cultures flourished in Ecuador long before the area was conquered by the Inca Empire in the 15th century. In 1534, the Spanish arrived and defeated the Inca armies, and 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 became the seat of a royal 'audiencia' (administrative district) of Spain.

Independence
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. In January 1942, Ecuador signed the Rio Protocol to end a brief war with Peru the year before. Ecuador agreed to a border that conceded to Peru much territory Ecuador previously had claimed in the Amazon. After World War II, a recovery in the market for agricultural commodities and the growth of the banana industry helped restore prosperity and political peace. From 1948-60, three presidents--beginning with Galo Plaza--were freely elected and completed their terms. Political turbulence returned in the 1960's, followed by a period of military dictatorship between 1972 and 1979. The 1980's and beginning of the 90's saw a return to democracy, but instability returned by the middle of the decade.

Political Instability (1997-2006)
Abdala Bucaram, from the Guayaquil-based Ecuadorian Roldosista Party (PRE), won the presidency in 1996 on a platform that promised populist economic and social policies and challenging what Bucaram termed as the power of the nation's oligarchy. During his short term of office, Bucaram's administration was severely criticized for corruption. Bucaram was deposed by the Congress in February 1997 on grounds of alleged mental incompetence. In his place, Congress named interim President Fabian Alarcon, who had been president of Congress. Alarcon's interim presidency was endorsed by a May 1997 popular referendum.

Congressional and first-round presidential elections were held on May 31, 1998. No presidential candidate obtained a majority, so a run-off election between the top two candidates--Quito Mayor Jamil Mahuad of the Popular Democracy party and Alvaro Noboa of the Ecuadorian Roldosista Party (PRE)--was held on July 12, 1998. Mahuad won by a narrow margin and took office on August 10, 1998. On the same day, Ecuador's new constitution came into effect. Mahuad concluded an historic peace agreement with Peru on October 26, 1998, but increasing economic, fiscal, and financial difficulties drove his popularity steadily lower. On January 21, 2000, during demonstrations in Quito by indigenous groups, the military and police refused to enforce public order. Demonstrators entered the National Assembly building and declared a three-person 'junta' in charge of the country. Field-grade military officers declared their support for the concept. During a night of confusion and negotiations, President Mahuad fled the presidential palace. Vice President Gustavo Noboa took charge and Mahuad went on national television to endorse Noboa as his successor. Congress met in emergency session in Guayaquil the same day, January 22, and ratified Noboa as President of the Republic.

Completing Mahuad's term, Noboa restored some stability to Ecuador. He implemented the dollarization of the economy that Mahuad had announced, and he obtained congressional authorization for the construction of Ecuador's second major oil pipeline, this one financed by a private consortium. Noboa turned over the government on January 15, 2003, to his successor, Lucio Gutierrez, a former army colonel who first came to public attention as a member of the short-lived 'junta' of January 21, 2000. Gutierrez' campaign featured an anti-corruption and leftist, populist platform. After taking office, however, Gutierrez adopted relatively conservative fiscal policies and defensive tactics, including replacing the Supreme Court and declaring a state of emergency in the capital to combat mounting opposition. The situation came to a head on April 20, 2005, when political opponents and popular uprisings in Quito prompted Congress to strip Gutierrez of the presidency for 'abandoning his post.' When the military withdrew its support, Gutierrez went into temporary exile. Congress declared Vice President Alfredo Palacio as the new president, and a new coalition reclaimed control of Congress. A semblance of stability returned, but the Palacio administration failed to achieve major reforms.

In national elections on October 15, 2006, third-time presidential candidate Alvaro Noboa won the first round, but Rafael Correa, Palacio's former finance minister, running on an anti-establishment reform platform, bested Noboa in the second round presidential runoff on November 26. Election observers characterized the elections as generally free, fair and transparent. Noboa's National Institutional Renovation and Action Party won the largest bloc in Congress, followed by Gutierrez's Patriotic Society Party; Correa's Proud and Sovereign Fatherland Alliance movement did not field any congressional candidates. Traditional parties saw their congressional representation cut in half. The new Congress took office January 5, 2007 and Correa was sworn in as President on January 15, 2007.


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - US Dollar Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions
US Dollar Exchange Rates


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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