Background Notes: Ecuador

PA/PC Source: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs Date: Jun 30, 19916/30/91 Category: Country Data Region: South America Country: Ecuador Subject: Military Affairs, Cultural Exchange, Travel, History, Trade/Economics, International Organizations, Environment [TEXT] Official Name: Republic of Ecuador


Area: 271,000 sq. km. (109,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Colorado. Cities: Capital--Quito (pop. 1.5 million). Other cities--Guayaquil (2 million). Terrain: jungle, mountains to coastal plain. Climate: varied.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Ecuadorian(s). Population (1990): 11 million. Annual growth rate: 2.4%. Ethnic groups: Indian 25%, mestizo (mixed Indian and Spanish) 65%, Caucasian and others 7%, African 3%. Religion: predominantly Roman Catholic. Languages: Spanish (official), Indian languages, especially Quichua. Education: Years compulsory--ages 6-12. Attendance (through 6th grade)-- 76% urban, 33% rural. Literacy--88%. Health: Infant mortality rate--51/1,000. Life expectancy--66 yrs. Work force (3.4 million): Agriculture--39%. Services --42%. Industry--11%. Other--8%.
Type: Republic. Constitution: 1979. Independence: August 10, 1809. Branches: Executive--president and 12 cabinet ministers. Legislative--unicameral Congress. Judicial--Supreme Court, provincial courts, and ordinary civil and penal judges. Administrative subdivisions: 21 provinces. Political parties: 15 legal political parties (1986) represent a wide variety of views; none predominates. Suffrage: Obligatory for literate citizens 18-65 yrs. of age; optional for other eligible voters; active duty military personnel do not vote. Central government budget (1990 est.): $1.4 billion. Defense (1990): $154 million.
GDP (1990): $10.9 billion. Annual growth rate (1990): 1.5%. Per capita income (1989 est.): $1,043. Inflation rate (1990): 50%. Natural resources: petroleum, fish, shrimp, timber, gold, limestone. Agriculture (17% of GDP): Products--bananas, seafood, coffee, cacao, sugar, rice, corn, and livestock. Industry (16% of GDP): Types--food processing, wood products, textiles, chemicals (pharmaceuticals). Trade: Exports (1990)--$2.4 billion: petroleum and petroleum products, shrimp, bananas, coffee, cocoa. Major markets--US, Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), EC. Imports (1990)-- $1.7 billion: agricultural and industrial machinery, industrial raw materials, agricultural commodities, chemical products, transportation and communication equipment, petroleum products. Major suppliers--US, EC, Japan, ALADI. Official exchange rate (March 1991): 1,000 sucres=US$1. Fiscal year: calendar year. US Assistance (FY90): Economic--$16.7 million; Military--$1.2 million; Law enforcement--$1.4 million.
Membership in International Organizations
UN and most of its specialized and related agencies, Organization of American States, ALADI, Andean Pact, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Latin American Energy Organization, Latin American Economic System, Group of 77, Non-Aligned Movement, Permanent Commission of the South Pacific (a regional organization composed of Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru, which coordinates fishing and conservation in the 200-mile maritime jurisdiction claimed by the four countries).


Ecuador's population is ethnically mixed. The largest ethnic groups are Indian and mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian). Africans, Spanish and other Europeans, and some Asians form smaller groups. Two kinds of internal migrations are occurring in Ecuador, from the highlands to the coast and from the countryside to the cities. Although Ecuadorians were concentrated in the mountainous central highland region a few decades ago, the population today is divided about equally between that area and the coastal lowlands. The cities now contain about 55% of the population. The tropical forest region to the east of the mountains remains sparsely populated and contains only about 3% of the population.


Pre-Columbian Ecuador was inhabited by linguistically and culturally diverse peoples. The dominant pre-Hispanic organization was the Inca Empire, a pyramidally administered autocratic state whose absolute ruler was believed to have descended from God. In the 15th century, the Inca Empire spread into what is now Ecuador from Peru. One emperor, Huayana Capac, established Quito as a major administrative and military outpost. The Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incas in Peru in 1532, and other Spaniards took advantage of Inca weakness and tribal resentment to subdue Quito and surrounding areas in 1534. After the War of Independence ended in 1822, Simon Bolivar joined Ecuador with the Republic of Greater Colombia. In 1830, Ecuador seceded and became a separate republic. The 19th century was a period of political instability, and Ecuador's first 95 years as a republic were marked by a succession of 40 presidents, dictators, and juntas. From 1925 to 1948, Ecuador had 22 presidents or chiefs of state. Stability was re-established when Galo Plaza Lasso (later Secretary General of the Organization of American States), became president after free elections in 1948, and completed his constitutional 4-year term. Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra (1952-56) and Camilo Ponce (1956-60) repeated his accomplishment. Velasco Ibarra was re-elected in 1960 but forced out of office in 1961 after economic problems and political turbulence. He was succeeded by Vice President Carlos Julio Arosemena. Less than 2 years later, the armed forces replaced Arosemena with a four- member junta. Almost 3 years of military rule ended in 1966 with the appointment of an interim civilian president, Clemente Yerovi. Yerovi supervised the election of a constituent assembly, which named Dr. Otto Arosemena interim constitutional president. When elections finally took place in 1968, Velasco was elected to a fifth term. However, student riots and financial problems quickly undermined his position. In 1970, with the support of the armed forces, Velasco suspended the constitution, dissolved Congress, and reorganized the Supreme Court. Despite these measures, in early 1972, the military deposed him for a fourth time. After 4 years, Gen. Guillermo Rodriguez Lara was replaced by other military officers. The new government, led by Adm. Alfredo Poveda, paved the way for the resumption of civilian government in 1979. Jaime Roldos, a protege of Guayaquil politician Assad Bucaram, was inaugurated in 1979, beginning a new era of civilian rule. His brief term was marked by sharp conflicts with the Congress and with his former mentor, Bucaram. Roldos, a populist, brought Christian Democrat Osvaldo Hurtado with him as vice president. In May 1981, Roldos was killed in an airplane crash, and Hurtado ascended to the presidency. During his 3-year tenure, Hurtado pursued a course of moderate change and economic development marked, at times, by financial difficulties. Floods caused by a persistent weather pattern known as "El Nino" did enormous damage to the country's agriculture and roads and sparked social unrest. Social Christian Leon Febres Cordero won the 1984 presidential elections by a narrow margin. Much of his tenure was characterized by bitter wrangling between the executive and the other branches of government, which were often dominated by the opposition, led by Social Democrat Rodrigo Borja. Febres Cordero implemented free-market economic policies, sought to diversify Ecuador's exports, and pursued close ties to the United States. He also took a strong stand against drug trafficking and terrorism. A devastating earthquake in March 1987 set back development plans. In August 1988, Rodrigo Borja became president after a landslide victory the previous spring that gave his party (Democratic Left-ID) almost an absolute majority in Congress. He instituted a government characterized by respect for human rights and economic restructuring. The government reached an accord with the main terrorist group (AVC) under which it was to become law abiding. Despite initial success, efforts to control inflation failed to bring it below 50%, and in mid-term congressional elections (June 1990), the ID lost more than half of its seats. Nevertheless, Borja pledged to continue economic restructuring, tight credit control, and efforts to attract foreign investment.


The constitution provides for concurrent 4-year terms of office for the president, the vice president, and the 12 congressmen (of a total of 72) who are elected as "National" (at large) legislators. The remaining 60 legislators, representing the country's 21 provinces, serve for 2 years. No president can be re- elected, and outgoing legislators must sit out a term before running for Congress again. Each year legislators elect from among themselves a president and vice president of Congress. Congress begins its annual 2-month regular session on Independence Day, August 10. For the remainder of the year, unless an extraordinary plenary session is called, all legislative business is transacted by the 20 members of the Congress who constitute its 4 permanent committees. Ecuador has a three-tiered court system. Congress appoints justices of the Supreme Court for 4-year terms. The Supreme Court names the members of the superior (provincial) courts, who in turn choose ordinary civil and penal judges. The power of judicial review rests with the Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees (TGC), a 15-member body representing executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as the private sector. All TGC decisions must be submitted to the Congress, which has ultimate authority to interpret the constitution. The executive branch includes 12 ministries and several cabinet-level secretariats headed by presidential appointees. The president also appoints Ecuador's 20 provincial governors (the capital district of Pichincha Province has no governor), who represent the central government at the local level.


Historically, Ecuador's political parties have been small, loose organizations dependent more on populist, often charismatic, leaders than on programs or ideology. Frequent internal splits produced extreme factionalism. To encourage the development of strong, stable political parties, the constitution permits only candidates affiliated with registered political parties to run for elective office. To be certified, a party must file a petition signed by a number of unaffiliated citizens equal to at least 1.5% of the number of valid votes cast in the last national election. The party must then field candidates in at least 10 of the country's provinces, including 2 of the 3 most populous. The 1990 congressional and local elections revealed that political fragmentation continues to exist: 15 parties, including 2 communist parties, contested the election. Eleven political parties are represented in the Congress. The opposition, made up of independents, the center-right, and populist parties, remains loosely organized, with former leaders of the Febres Cordero administration among the chief spokesmen. The armed forces include about 50,000 troops.


Agriculture is the cornerstone of Ecuador's economy. The coastal region produces most of Ecuador's export crops, such as bananas and coffee, while the highlands grow most of the country's food crops and is beginning to export flowers and vegetables. Although only 15% of GPD, petroleum constitutes half of Ecuador's exports and of government revenue. Therefore, international oil prices have a major effect on overall economic performance. The small industrial sector produces largely for a protected domestic market. Pursuing a policy of gradual economic reform, the Borja administration achieved notable improvements in the economy in 1989. It tightened public sector spending and slowed monetary growth, reducing inflation from 86% at the end of 1988 to 54% at the end of 1989. It also improved the external accounts, raising net international reserves from negative $176 million to a positive $203 million. However, growth in 1989 was only 0.2%. Progress stalled in the first half of 1990. Public spending increased, monetary growth remained high, and inflation stabilized at just under 50%. In response, the government cut spending for the second half of the year by the equivalent of 11% of the original budget. This, coupled with increased revenue from higher oil prices, may reduce the deficit and moderate inflation. Although the government has made structural reforms, much remains to be done, including a reduction of direct government control of the economy, movement toward free-market interest rates, privatization of some companies, further liberalization of trade, reform of labor laws, and promotion of domestic and foreign private investment. On foreign debt, the government has regularized its relations with the multi-lateral banks and bilateral creditors. The IMF approved a stand-by program for Ecuador in 1989 and renewed it in 1990, and the World Bank and IBD have resumed lending. In October 1989 the government rescheduled principal and interest due to official bilateral creditors (the Paris Club). Ecuador began discussions with commercial bank creditors in August 1989 but was unable to reach agreement. The original round of talks stalled, but discussions were resumed in November 1990. Beginning in June 1989 the government began paying about 30% of interest due. At the end of 1989, total outstanding external debt was $11.3 billion.


Ecuador traditionally has maintained good relations with East and West and emphasizes multilateral approaches to international problems. One of Ecuador's basic foreign policy objectives is a revision of the 1942 Rio Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Boundaries, which ended a short war between Peru and Ecuador. Ecuador holds that the protocol awarded disputed territory to Peru. Geographical features along a 78-kilometer (49 mi.) stretch of land that do not match topographical descriptions in the protocol have, according to Ecuador, made a complete boundary demarcation between the two countries "inexecutable." Most Ecuadorians would welcome a revision of the protocol (a move Peru opposes) to gain sovereign access to the Maranon river, a main tributary of the Amazon. This long-running border dispute has erupted into armed conflict along the undemarcated section. The most recent and serious episode occurred in 1981. Ecuador has requested that the four guarantors of the Rio protocol (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the United States) help end formal differences over the border. In his inaugural address, Borja expressed interest in reaching a negotiated solution, and relations between the two countries have warmed. In addition to international financial institutions, Ecuador looks primarily to the United States, Western Europe, and Japan for assistance in addressing social and economic development. The government has indicated it will seek to attract private foreign investment and has begun to remove trade impediments. Ecuador is not a member of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).


The United States and Ecuador have close ties based on mutual interests in maintaining democratic institutions, fighting narco- trafficking, building trade, investment and finance, fostering Ecuador's economic development, and participating in inter- American organizations. The United States assists Ecuador's economic development through its Agency for International Development program in Ecuador and through multilateral organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. In addition, the US Peace Corps operates a sizable program in Ecuador. Both countries are signatories of the 1947 Rio treaty, the Western Hemisphere's mutual security treaty. Ecuador shares US concern over increasing narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Ecuador has condemned terrorist actions, eliminated coca production since the mid-1980s, and developed a vigorous program of combating money laundering and narcotics trafficking. Differences have arisen over the breadth of the territorial sea claimed by a coastal state and its rights over highly migratory fish traveling through its claimed territorial waters. Although the United States claims jurisdiction for the management of coastal fisheries up to 320 kilometers (200 mi.) from its coast, it excludes highly migratory species such as tuna. Ecuador, on the other hand, claims a 320-kilometer (200-mile) wide territorial sea and has implemented that claim by imposing license fees and fines on foreign fishing vessels, with no exceptions, made for the catch of migratory species. In the early 1970s, Ecuador seized about 100 foreign flag boats, many of them American, and collected fees and fines of more than $6 million. After a reduction in such seizures for some years, several US tuna boats were detained and seized in 1980 and 1981. The US Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act then triggered an automatic prohibition of US imports of tuna products from Ecuador. The prohibition was lifted in 1983, but the fundamental difference between Ecuadorian and US legislation remains. Successive Ecuadorian governments have declared their willingness to explore solutions to this problem with mutual respect for long-standing positions and principles held on both sides. No current conflict exists.
Principal Government Officials
President--Rodrigo BORJA Cevallos Vice President--Luis PARODI Valverde Foreign Minister-- Diego CORDOVEZ Zegers Ambassador to the United States-- Jaime MONCAYO Garcia Ambassador to the OAS--Miguel Antonio Vasco Ambassador to the United Nations--Jose AYALA Ecuador maintains an embassy in the United States at 2535 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-234-7200) and consulates in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco.
Principal US Officials
Ambassador--Paul C. Lambert Deputy Chief of Mission--James F. Mack Consul General, Guayaquil--Gwendolyn Clair The US Embassy in Ecuador is located at Avenida 12 de Octubre y Avenida Patria. Phone: (593)(2) 562-890. The Consulate General is at 9 de Octubre and Garcia Moreno, Guayaquil (tel. (593)(4) 323-570).


Clothing and climate: Temperatures vary with altitude, not season. Spring-and fall-weight clothing is useful all year in the Sierra, while summer-weight clothes are necessary in the Costa and Oriente. Rainwear is necessary during the rainy season in Quito and Guayaquil (roughly November-March). Immigration and customs: A valid Ecuadorian visa is required to enter the country; however, visas can be obtained from immigration authorities upon arrival in Ecuador. Tourist visas are valid for up to 90 days per calendar year. Those wishing to study or work in Ecuador should request visas from the nearest Ecuadorian Consulate or the Ecuadorian Embassy in Washington, DC. Health: Inoculations against typhoid, polio, tetanus, and hepatitis are recommended throughout the country. In addition, malaria suppressant and yellow fever inoculation are recommended in the lowlands. Travelers must take precautions against contaminated food and water. Tapwater is not potable in all areas. The high altitude of the Sierra may cause problems, especially for older people and those with heart problems. Telecommunications: Domestic telephone, telegraph and FAX services are available between major cities in Ecuador. Long- distance telephone service, cables, and telex are available. Ecuador is in the eastern standard time zone but does not observe daylight savings. Transportation: Flights are available from the United States. Domestic airlines serve most large-and medium-sized cities in Ecuador. Intercity railroad passenger service is limited, but intercity buses are frequent. In the major cities, buses and taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced.(###) Published by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication, Washington, DC , November 1990. Series Editor: Peter Knecht. Department of State Publication 7747. Background Notes Series -- This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission; citation of this source is appreciated. For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. (###)