About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos


Ecuador - Government and Politics

ONE OF THE LEAST POLITICALLY stable of the South American republics for most of its history, Ecuador had 86 governments and 17 constitutions in its first 159 years of independence. Only twenty of those governments resulted from popular elections, and many of the elections were fraudulent. José María Velasco Ibarra, who completed only one of his five terms as president, often stated, "Ecuador is a very difficult country to govern."

Ecuador had four successive democratic elections from 1948 to 1960, but the country did not experience relative political stability under democratic rule again until the 1980s. Seven years of military dictatorship ended with the presidential inauguration of Jaime Roldós Aguilera on August 10, 1979. After Roldós died in an airplane crash on May 24, 1981, Vice President Osvaldo Hurtado Larrea assumed the presidency. The completion of the Hurtado/Roldós administration and the constitutional and orderly transfer of power--the first such transfer in twenty-four years--to conservative León Febres Cordero Ribadeneyra (1984-88) in August 1984 seemed to affirm the restoration of democracy in Ecuador. Nevertheless, as Roldós himself had cautioned shortly before taking office, the nation had only a formalistic and ritualistic democratic tradition.

Indeed, Ecuador has been shaken periodically since 1984 by bitter conflicts between the executive branch on the one side and the unicameral legislature and the judiciary on the other. These clashes were particularly pronounced during Febres Cordero's polemical administration. His authoritarian rule also provoked military mutinies and even his brief abduction by rebellious troops. Although battered, Ecuador's democratic system survived, and Febres Cordero transferred power to his long-time rival, Rodrigo Borja Cevallos, in August 1988. Whereas Febres Cordero, a millionaire businessman from Guayaquil, had advocated a free-market economy, strong executive control, and close alignment with the United States, Borja, a social democrat from Quito, espoused a mixed economy, a pluralist government, and a nonaligned foreign policy. In his first two years, Borja succeeded in softening the impact of his predecessor's legacy of political, economic, and social crises.

Despite a decade of civilian democratic rule marked by three peaceful transitions of government, analysts generally agreed that the political system remained vulnerable. Political scientist John D. Martz noted, for instance, that the transition to a third democratic government in 1988 provided "little reason to believe that the fragile democratic system in Ecuador had been strengthened, nor that the historic pattern of instability had been fundamentally reversed or modified."

The destabilizing conflicts among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government resulted primarily from idiosyncrasies of Ecuador's institutional structure. For example, the judiciary, despite being independent, lacked the authority needed to serve as an effective check on the abuse of presidential powers. Although the Supreme Court of Justice (Corte Supremo de Justicia--CSJ) carried out many judicial duties normally expected of a nation's highest court, it did not rule on constitutional issues. A nonjudicial appendage of the National Congress (Congreso Nacional--hereafter, Congress), the Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees (Tribunal de Garantías Constitucionales--TGC), exercised that function, thereby giving the legislative body the power to, in effect, control interpretation of the Constitution.

The traditional, deep-seated division between the liberal, trade-oriented, tropical Costa (coastal region) and the conservative, agrarian-oriented Sierra (Andean highlands) also helped explain Ecuador's bitter infighting over political and economic affairs. This fundamental division pitted the Pacific port city of Guayaquil, the country's principal economic center, against the highland capital of Quito. The enmity between natives of Guayaquil and of Quito was reflected in the alignment of the country's sixteen registered political parties, in the 1988 elections, as well as in the refusal of outgoing President Febres Cordero, a native of Guayaquil, to speak to his successor, Rodrigo Borja, a native of Quito, or even to personally pass the presidential sash to him on August 10, 1988. According to political scientist and former president Hurtado, rivalry among provinces and regions for central government attention in the form of development projects, principally road construction, also was a major source of political conflict.

Although Ecuador's political parties and its free and partisan press participated in a lively and contentious democratic political process, parties suffered from factionalism, weak organization, lack of mass participation, and blurred ideologies, as well as from the competing influences of populism and militarism. Analysts generally agreed that the proliferation of small parties and the need to negotiate alliances contributed significantly to political instability in the 1980s.



The tension between civilian and clerical authority dominated Ecuador's constitutional history for much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This issue provided one of the bases for the lasting dispute between Conservatives, who represented primarily the interests of the Sierra and the church, and the Liberals, who represented those of the Costa and anticlericalism.

Ecuador's first constitution of 1830, when the country seceded from the Confederation of Gran Colombia, followed the precedents of other independence documents: the Quito State Charter (1812) and the Gran Colombia constitutions of Cúcuta (1821) and Bogotá (1830). The Quito State Charter, framed before independence, called for a unicameral legislature and a popular and representative state established through indirect elections by its citizens. The term "popular," however, meant in practice participation by only wealthy and influential persons. Succeeding constitutions clearly defined the stringent property, professional, and literacy requirements for citizenship and distinguished between citizens and Ecuadorians. Only a small, white-male minority (initially those over twenty-one years of age) met these requirements and therefore enjoyed the impressive rights guaranteed under these and other nineteenth- century constitutions.

Ecuador's first constitution as a republic, that of 1830, also became known as the Floreana constitution, after the new nation's first president, General Juan José Flores (1830-45). It established a unitary and centralized presidential system of government, and separation of powers, with the executive power predominating in practice. The 1830 constitution also established a unicameral congress, elected by indirect suffrage and made up of an equal number (ten) of deputies from each of the three districts--Quito, Azuay, and Guayaquil--and a Council of State to assist the executive in administering the government and to substitute for Congress during the recess.

The five constitutions framed between 1830 and 1852 had much in common. Voting was made indirect, through electors, in both congressional and presidential elections. The presidential term was four years, with the exception of the 1843 constitution (the so- called "Slavery Charter"), which provided for an eight-year term. The 1843 constitution also recognized Roman Catholicism as the state religion. Only the constitutions of 1830 and 1851, however, provided for a unicameral legislature; the others established a bicameral congress, composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. The 1843 constitution also made an exception to indirect congressional elections by extending popular suffrage to the election of senators. The 1845 constitution declared that sovereignty resides in the people, although it extended suffrage only to all male citizens.

The constitution of 1861, promulgated by President Gabriel García Moreno (1859-75), eliminated the financial requirements for citizenship and the franchise; introduced direct and secret suffrage for electing all members of a bicameral Congress, the president and vice president of the republic, and the provincial authorities; and established proportional representation for Ecuador's provinces in the Chamber of Deputies (each province elected two senators). These innovations made the 1861 constitution the most representative in Ecuador's constitutional evolution in the nineteenth century. It also reintroduced the strong presidency, whose chief executive was elected by "universal suffrage" for a four-year term. Although it retained Roman Catholicism as the only legal religion, the 1861 constitution guaranteed free expression of thought.

Nearly all of the constitutions prohibited the immediate reelection of the president, but this provision was often violated in spirit. Despite a strong sentiment against long-term monopoly of the presidency, generals Flores, García, and Eloy Alfaro (1895- 1912) managed to rule behind the scenes between their terms of office. In 1869 García, a conservative, intensely devout Catholic, promulgated a more authoritarian constitution, referred to as the Garciana constitution or Carta Negra (the Black Charter), which extended the presidential term to six years. It introduced the religious factor into politics by making membership in the Roman Catholic Church a requisite for citizenship, and it also required being at least twenty-one years of age, married, and able to read and write. The 1884 Elections Law, however, eliminated the requirement of being Catholic in order to be a citizen.

The Liberal period from 1895 to 1925 had two constitutions, those of 1897 and 1906. The first, promulgated by General José Eloy Alfaro Delgado, prohibited religious orders, abolished privileges of the Catholic Church, and reduced the male voting age to eighteen (or marital status). The second, the country's twelfth and most durable charter, provided unprecedented protection of civil and political rights and guarantees, including abolition of the death penalty, introduced new individual freedoms, and prohibited arbitrary imprisonment for debts. It also established the separation of the church and state and strengthened the Council of State. The 1906 Elections Law gave women the right for the first time to participate in political and administrative life.

The 1929 constitution combined quasicorporate features drawn from many different models. Described as a semiparliamentary charter, it reorganized the Senate into a body consisting of fifteen senators elected to represent specific interest groups. Ecuadorian judicial scholar Hernán Salgado Pesantes notes that the 1929 constitution was the only one that weakened presidential powers by, for example, disallowing successive presidential reelection and introducing a Council of Ministers and a vote of no confidence. Congress was even able to impeach an incumbent president in 1933. The 1929 document also introduced various social, economic, and political rights, including the right of literate women of at least twenty-one years of age to have citizenship and to vote, and the right of minorities to elect deputies and provincial councillors (consejeros provinciales). The traditional social and ethnic stratification continued, however, as did the constitutional distinction between citizens and Ecuadorians. Consequently, the 1929 charter, coinciding as it did with the worldwide economic crisis, failed to improve political stability significantly.

A Constituent Assembly, dominated by the leftist Ecuadorian Democratic Alliance, deliberated almost six months before adopting the country's fourteenth constitution, promulgated by President Velasco on May 3, 1945. Although Velasco had opposed the assembly's efforts to strengthen the legislature, the new constitution imposed a number of important checks on the president, especially regarding the executive's use of emergency and veto powers. The 1945 constitution also provided for a unicameral legislature, rendered the cabinet partially responsible to Congress, replaced the Council of State with the TGC, and established the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Superior Electoral--TSE). In addition, the 1945 constitution smoothed over the religious issue by stating that the nation did not recognize any official religion and that citizens could practice any faith.

Although Velasco signed the 1945 constitution, his immediate rejection of it prompted the adoption of another, promulgated in 1946, that restored the bicameral legislature (consisting of a forty-five-member Senate and a sixty-four-member Chamber of Deputies) and the Council of State (replacing the TGC) and greatly increased the executive's authority. Velasco's constitution also reintroduced the office of vice president, for which no provision had been made in the constitutions of 1869, 1906, 1929, and 1945. The constitution made autonomous the institutions responsible for supervising the electoral process: the TSE and the Provincial Electoral Tribunals (Tribunales Provinciales Electorales--TPEs).

The most extensive of Ecuador's constitutions, the 1967 document, drafted by a popularly elected constituent assembly, legitimized political parties recognized by the TSE; made voting obligatory for women as well as for men; and made Congress bicameral, meeting twice a year in ordinary sessions (from March 6 to May 4 and from August 10 to October 9). In addition, the TGC again replaced the Council of State.

The 1967 constitution, however, contained provisions that displeased Velasco, who as of June 2, 1968, was in his fifth term as president. For example, it restricted powers to call a state of siege. On June 22, 1970, Velasco, in an autogalpe (self- seizure of power), assumed extraconstitutional powers and began ruling by decree. He suspended the 1967 constitution, which he charged had destroyed executive control, amputated the Senate's power, divested the police of all authority, and dismembered the administrative organization.

After General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara deposed Velasco in a military coup in February 1972, the armed forces issued a decree reinstating the 1945 document. Rodríguez suspended it in 1974, however, and cancelled plans for holding an election. In January 1976, a military junta ousted Rodríguez and again reinstated the 1945 constitution. In a measure unprecedented in Ecuador's constitutional history, the junta held a popular referendum on January 15, 1978, to decide between a reformed version of the 1945 document and a new charter; 44 percent of the voters cast their ballots for the latter, and 31 percent for the former. Nullified votes totaled 23 percent.

By allowing for a considerable amount of state intervention and providing for a large number of economic and social rights, the new Constitution (promulgated on August 10, 1979) is much more progressive than the reformed document, which had favored the status quo. Framed along the lines of the 1945 and 1967 charters, the 1979 Constitution, the country's seventeenth, contains several innovations, including granting citizenship and suffrage to all Ecuadorians over eighteen years of age, including illiterates; and requiring candidates in popular elections to affiliate with a legally recognized party. It also creates a unicameral Congress (for the fourth time in Ecuador's constitutional history) and four Legislative Commissions which form the Plenary of Legislative Commissions (Plenario de las Comisiones Legislativas--PCL). In addition, it requires the selection of the president and vice president in the same election, prohibits either from seeking a successive term, authorizes Congress to elect a new vice president if the incumbent resigns, and allows the president to declare a state of national emergency and to finance the public debt without prior legislative authorization. Although the Constitution initially extended the presidential term to five years, an amendment later reduced it to four. The Constitution also creates the National Development Council (Consejo Nacional de Desarrollo-- Conade), headed by the vice president, and strengthens the independence of the judiciary.

To help compensate for numerous deficiencies in the 1979 Constitution, amendments were approved in 1983. These reforms, which went into effect in August 1984, give more power to the TGC; reduce from five to four years the term of the principal officials of the state, including the president (with the exceptions of TGC and TSE members, who serve two years); shorten the terms of the judges of the CSJ, Fiscal Tribunal, and Contentious Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo--TCA) from six years to four; and make the president and vice president of the republic subject to trial only for treason, bribery, or other infractions that seriously compromise the national honor.

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, language, or social status. Nevertheless, in the late 1980s Indians and blacks constituted a disproportionate share of those living in poverty, although there was no legally sanctioned discrimination against them. Moreover, there were still few highly placed women in the political structure. Fewer than 15 percent of the candidates in the 1984 elections were women, and only three of the seventy-one congressional deputies elected that year were female. Women still suffered some discrimination under civil law and usually received lower wages than men employed in similar positions. In 1987, however, changes in laws concerning divorce, property distribution, and inheritance gave women equal rights with their husbands in these areas as required by the Constitution.

According to the United States Department of State, the following individual rights were respected in the late 1980s: the freedom of peaceful assembly and association; the freedom of religion (although the country was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic); the freedom of movement within the country, of foreign travel, and of emigration and repatriation (persons from other Latin American countries readily found asylum in Ecuador); and the freedom to exercise political rights. Worker rights that were generally respected included the right of association, the right to strike, and the right to organize and bargain collectively. Although forced or compulsory labor and employment of children under the age of eighteen were prohibited, Indians often worked for near-starvation wages, and many children in rural areas were active in the work force.


Under the 1979 Constitution, Ecuador is a democratic and unitary state with a republican, presidential, elective, and representative government. Although the presidency is mainly a political office, it and the rest of the executive branch are responsible for the governmental process. Congress is responsible for the legislative process. The Supreme Court of Justice, which supervises the Superior Courts, is, along with other judicial organs, responsible for serving justice. Relations between the executive and legislative branches are based on the principle of the separation of powers, although there are several points of contact. In the 1980s, there also have been numerous points of friction between the executive and legislative branches, particularly during the Febres Cordero administration. As political scientist David Corkill observed in 1985, "Politics became locked in a familiar cycle of executive-legislative conflict, protracted political deadlock, and military intervention to break the impasse."

The Executive

The executive branch of government consists of the president, the vice president, the ministers of state and their subordinate officials, and Conade. The office of the president is located in the National Palace (Palacio Nacional) in Quito, and the offices of the vice president and ministers at various other locations in the capital. The president serves a four-year term and may not run for reelection.

To be president, one must be Ecuadorian by birth, in full possession of the rights of citizenship, and at least thirty-five years of age at the time of the election. Election requires an absolute majority of the votes cast by direct, universal, and secret ballot. A candidate may not be a current or former president, a spouse or relative of an incumbent president, vice president in the term immediately prior to the election, a minister of state at the time of the election, a member of the Public Forces (composed of the armed forces and National Police) within six months prior to the election, a minister of any religious denomination, a government contractor, or a legal representative of a foreign company.

The president's duties and powers include the following: to comply with and enforce the Constitution, laws, decrees, and international conventions; to approve, promulgate, carry out, or challenge the laws enacted by Congress or the PCL; to maintain domestic order and national security; to freely appoint and remove ministers, chiefs of diplomatic missions, governors, and other public officials, as provided by law (the president sends a list of three candidates for high-level state positions to Congress, which selects one); to determine foreign policy and direct international relations; to enter into treaties and other international agreements, and to ratify treaties and agreements after their approval by Congress; to contract loans; to serve as commander in chief of the Public Forces; to appoint, confer promotions on, or remove officials of the Public Forces; to mobilize or demobilize the Public Forces and assume command of them in wartime, and to approve their organization; to declare a state of national emergency and to assume emergency powers as needed in times of crisis; to submit an annual report to Congress on the general state of the government and the republic; and to call a popular referendum on important questions.

The president may declare a state of emergency in general situations involving imminent foreign aggression, international war, or serious internal strife or catastrophe. A state of emergency empowers the president to decree the anticipated collection of taxes; to invest fiscal funds designated for other areas (with the exception of health and social services) in the defense of the state or the solution of a catastrophe, but not in the case of an internal conflict; to move the seat of the government; to close or open ports; to censor the media; to suspend observance of constitutional guarantees, with the exception of such basic human rights as the right to life, personal integrity, and freedom from expatriation or confinement (except under certain conditions); and to declare a security zone in the national territory. In order to prevent arbitrary presidential declarations, Congress or the TGC may revoke the state of emergency at any time if the circumstances justify such action.

The president has important legislative powers as well. The principle of "legislative coparticipation" allows the chief executive to participate in the formation as well as the execution and application of laws. The president may present before Congress or the PCL any proposed law, including constitutional amendments. Congress or the PCL must invite the head of state or a representative to participate, without voting rights, in the discussions of the proposed law. Within fifteen days, Congress or the PCL must approve, amend, or reject urgent presidential proposals on the economy. In the absence of any congressional action, the president may promulgate any such proposal as a decreelaw , which the Congress may overrule or amend. Any bill approved by Congress or the PCL must be submitted to the president, who has ten days to approve or to object partially or totally to it. The legislature may override a presidential veto by a two-thirds majority. The chief executive, once signing a bill into law, must promulgate it by publishing it in the Registro Oficial del Estado (Official Register of the State) and issue regulations within ninety days.

The president may call Congress into extraordinary session to consider exclusively matters put before it by the head of state. In practice, however, these sessions have not always worked to the president's advantage. For example, although President Febres Cordero convoked extraordinary sessions of Congress in March and April 1985, the legislature suspended the first one after rejecting a presidential bill to increase the monthly minimum wage by 30 percent, and the president of Congress unilaterally, and some claimed illegally, suspended the second session without completing its agenda. Although the Constitution does not specifically give Congress the power to suspend an extraordinary session called by the president, the legislative body may interpret the charter and the laws as it sees fit.

The presidency may be declared vacant following the incumbent's death, resignation, physical or mental incapacitation, or removal from office by the legislature for having been absent from Quito for thirty consecutive days or for having left the country without congressional authorization. Under these circumstances, the Constitution provides for subrogation or substitution of the president. The order of presidential subrogation is the vice president, the president of Congress, and the president of the CSJ. The presidential order of subrogation also serves for the temporary replacement of the vice president. In the definitive absence of the vice president, Congress may designate a successor by an absolute majority.

The 1979 Constitution establishes that the vice president be elected simultaneously with the president on the same party slate by an absolute majority, and meet the same requirements and restrictions. The vice president also serves as president of Conade, which plans the various policies of the state.

The ministers of state, who comprise the cabinet, discharge the affairs of state and represent the president in matters relating to their respective ministries. To be a minister, one must be Ecuadorian by birth, in full possession of the rights of citizenship, and at least thirty years of age. In 1989 the Borja cabinet had twelve ministers and also included two secretaries of state--the secretary general of administration and the secretary general for public information--with ministerial rank. All ministries also had deputy ministers, who were, with the usual exception of the deputy minister of defense, civilians. In addition, the president supervised more than 700 autonomous agencies, including the National Planning Board.

Conade determines the general economic and social policies of the state; prepares development plans for presidential approval; and determines the general economic and social policies of the state. The eleven-member Conade consists of the vice president, four ministers of state appointed by the president, the president of the Monetary Board, and one representative each of Congress, the mayors (alcaldes), and provincial prefects (prefectos provinciales), organized labor, the Commercial Associations (Cámaras de Producción), and the polytechnical universities and schools. In the event of a tie, the matter is resolved by the vote of whoever is presiding over the meeting. Once approved by the president, the policies adopted by Conade must be implemented by the appropriate ministers and by government agencies.

Under a restructuring directive issued by Vice President Luis Parodi in January 1990, Conade created the offices of undersecretaries of Economic Planning and Decentralized Planning and Social Development. In addition, seven general directorates were established: Short-Range Planning, Medium- and Long-Range Planning, Decentralized Planning, the Costa Social Development, Technical and Financial Cooperation, and Administration. The changes resulted from a desire to emphasize the role of planning as a tool of the government, thus necessitating modernization and institutional consolidation of the council.

<>The Legislature
<>The Judiciary
<>Public Administration
<>Local Government
<>The Electoral Process

Ecuador - The Legislature

Although a bicameral organization of Congress had been predominant in Ecuador's republican history, the 1979 Constitution establishes a unicameral legislative body, the Congress. Two classes of deputies--the nationals and the provincials--are elected. The twelve national deputies are elected through a national vote, are at least thirty years of age at the time of election, and serve four years; they may be reelected after sitting out a legislative period. Provincial deputies serve two years and may be reelected after waiting out one legislative term. They are elected in the twenty-one provinces under a system of proportional representation. The provincial deputies must be at least twenty- five years of age at the time of their election and be either natives of the province they are to represent or residents of that province for at least three years prior to the election. National and provincial deputies must be Ecuadorian by birth, in full possession of the rights of citizenship, and affiliated with one of the political parties legally recognized by the TSE.

Those prohibited from serving as members of Congress or even from participating in the electoral process include virtually all members of the executive and judicial branches, public employees, officials of banks and other credit institutions, holders of active state contracts, military personnel on active duty, ministers of any denomination and members of religious communities, and representatives of foreign companies. In addition, no candidate may be economically dependent on the state or have had any connection with it at least six months prior to the election. Ninety days prior to an election, a legally recognized political party must register its candidates for Congress with the TSE.

Once elected, a deputy may not hold any other public post, with the sole exception of a university teaching position. Likewise, deputies are prohibited from exercising their profession while Congress and its commissions are in session. While performing their legislative duties or even carrying out acts outside of these functions, deputies are protected by parliamentary immunity from prosecution for common law penal infractions. They may be prosecuted only if Congress votes to lift their immunity.

Congress usually meets once a year for a period of seventy working days beginning on August 10 and ending on October 8. When Congress convenes in an ordinary period of sessions, it elects from among its members a president and vice president to serve one-year terms. In addition, two secretaries are elected who are not members of the legislature. The holders of these one-year appointments may be reelected.

Congress also must name, from among its national deputies, seven legislators and seven substitutes (suplentes) to each of the four Legislative Commissions. These commissions cover civil and penal issues; labor and social issues; tax, fiscal, banking, and budgetary issues; and economic, agrarian, industrial, and commercial issues. Congress may also designate or form other commissions to deal with specific issues, such as constitutional reform. When Congress recesses, the four established commissions continue operating with certain powers, and in some matters certain state organs may substitute for Congress. To discuss and approve laws or other legislation, the four commissions meet under the direction of the president of Congress and form the PCL. The PCL may approve or reject proposals of law; codify the laws; prosecute the judges of the CSJ, the Fiscal Tribunal, and the TCA for infractions of the law; reject treaties or international agreements; and, when Congress is in recess, make the final decision on the legality of laws, decrees, regulations, orders, or resolutions suspended by the TGC for reasons of unconstitutionality.

The Constitution gives Congress important powers in legislation and in political and judicial control. Only Congress, or in its recess the PCL, may enact legislation or interpret the Constitution. The executive may only work out regulations for the application of the laws, without interpreting or altering them. Specific congressional powers include reforming the Constitution and interpreting ambiguous provisions; expediting, modifying, reforming, repealing, and interpreting the laws; establishing or replacing taxes, rates, or other public revenues; and approving or rejecting public treaties and other international conventions entered into by the executive. High officials of the state-- including the president, the presidents of the CSJ, TSE, TGC, and Fiscal Tribunal, as well as the comptroller general and the attorney general--must also present their annual reports to Congress.

The legislature may also prosecute the president and vice president; the ministers of state; the ministers of the CSJ, TCA, and Fiscal Court; the members of the TGC and TSE; the comptroller general; the attorney general; the fiscal general minister; and the superintendents of banks and companies for infractions committed during the exercise of their duties or up to one year after leaving office. The president may be prosecuted only for serious charges, such as betrayal of the nation, bribery, or other infractions severely affecting the national honor. Utilizing the interpellation procedure, one or more legislators draw up a list of questions to an official or judge who is to be prosecuted by Congress. The secretary of Congress must deliver the list to the person at least five days prior to the date of interpelación (interpellation procedure), when the individual must appear before Congress to answer the questions. If during the proceeding the person is determined to be guilty by an absolute majority, Congress may censor the subject and dismiss him or her from the post; the case then passes on to the appropriate judges.

Congress also appoints a number of high-level government officials, including the comptroller general, the attorney general, the fiscal minister, and superintendents of banks and companies. These appointments are made from lists submitted by the president, each containing three proposed names. Only Congress may remove these individuals from their four-year posts. Congress also appoints the ministers or judges of the CSJ, the Fiscal Tribunal, and the TCA. Should any of these posts become vacant when Congress is in recess, it remains unoccupied until the next session.

The political nature of judicial appointments became a matter of considerable controversy in the 1980s. For example, in October 1984 a dispute broke out between the legislative and executive branches following Congress's appointment of sixteen CSJ judges opposed by Febres Cordero. He used military and security forces to prevent the newly elected judges from entering the Supreme Court of Justice building. The controversy was resolved that December, however, when Congress agreed to waive its prerogative to select all of the judges and allow Febres Cordero to appoint eight of them.

Congress also designates the seven members who make up the TSE, as well as their substitutes. It elects three TSE members on its own accord and elects the remaining four from two sets of names: two members from one set provided by the president and two members from another list sent by the CSJ. In addition, Congress selects three of the eleven members of the TGC and their substitutes and nominates the remaining members and their alternates from lists of candidates submitted by the president, the CSJ, the Electoral College, the Electoral College of Provincial Prefects, the National Federations of Workers, and the Commercial Associations.

Congress also has a role in budgetary matters. One of its Legislative Commissions reviews the budget submitted by the executive branch through the Ministry of Finance and Credit. Only in the case of budgetary discrepancies does Congress intervene. Once Congress resolves any discrepancies, its approval is final, and the executive may not object. If Congress wishes to repeal or modify laws that increase public expenditures, it must seek other sources of financing, create new substitute revenues, or increase the existing ones.

Other congressional powers include installing the president and vice president once the TSE proclaims them to be elected, and electing the vice president, if that post becomes vacant. Congress also handles resignations of the president, the vice president, and certain other officials. Congress grants or denies permission to the president and vice president to be absent from the country, grants them general amnesty for political crimes, and imposes fines on them for common crimes.

Congress may dismiss cabinet ministers by majority vote. During the Febres Cordero presidency, the opposition majority in Congress dismissed the finance and credit minister in late 1986 for alleged abuse of tariff, exchange, and public spending laws; forced the resignation of the energy and mines minister in August 1987 for allegedly violating Ecuador's sovereignty in negotiating an oil trade agreement; and impeached the government and justice minister that October for alleged complicity in arbitrary arrests, torture, and disappearances.

To deal with important matters that cannot wait until the next ordinary session, the legislature may convene in extraordinary session. This session may be called by two-thirds of the legislators, the president of Congress, or the president. It may consider only the specific matters for which it was called. If another important issue arises or is introduced by the president, it cannot be considered until the assembly ends and another is called.

Ecuador - The Judiciary

The Court System

The judicial branch consists of three organs of equal status and importance: the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ); the Fiscal Tribunal, which recognizes and resolves controversies arising between the revenue-collecting administration and the taxpayers and determines tax obligations; and the Contentious Administrative Tribunal (TCA), which is primarily responsible for recognizing and resolving controversies arising in public administration. Located in Quito, these judicial bodies have jurisdiction over all of the national territory. Their judges or ministers of justice must be Ecuadorian citizens by birth, be at least forty years of age, hold a doctorate in jurisprudence, and have at least fifteen years of professional experience as a lawyer, judge, or university professor in jurisprudence. The appointment of the CSJ's sixteen justices is the constitutional prerogative of Congress.

In practice, Congress and the executive branch have frequently manipulated the supposedly independent judiciary for political purposes. Congress appoints the judges of the three judicial organs to serve four-year terms. If vacancies later arise, these are filled by the organs themselves until Congress nominates official replacements. Occasionally, the president may intervene (on his or her own accord and without any specific constitutional authorization to do so) in the process of nominating CSJ justices by presenting a list of candidates, and the Council of State (a body whose bureaucratic organization and powers are unclear) may intervene by endorsing the candidates suggested by the president. At the apex of the court system is the CSJ, consisting of five chambers of three judges each, as well as the court's president. When they meet, the members of the five chambers constitute the plenary tribunal. The tribunal selects the court's president, who represents the entire judicial branch for a two-year period and may not be reelected until after five periods have elapsed.

The three judicial organs have certain powers with respect to reforming the Constitution and initiating legislation. The CSJ may initiate reforms of the Constitution, and all three judicial organs may initiate proposals of law. In an arrangement similar to the "legislative coparticipation" enjoyed by the president, the justices of the three judicial bodies may meet with Congress or its Legislative Commissions to intervene, without voting rights, in the discussion of bills. The CSJ has a very secondary role in controlling matters of constitutionality. Although any of its chambers, as well as the Fiscal Tribunal and the TCA, may declare a law or regulation unconstitutional, the plenary session of the CSJ must affirm such a declaration, in which case the matter is reported to the TGC.

The CSJ supervises the superior, lower, and special courts and prepares regulations to ensure that judicial employees function properly. The CSJ examines the statistics of the cases submitted annually by the superior courts, hears or resolves questions raised by these courts, and suspends or removes lawyers who violate legal statutes. It also removes criminal, provincial, and cantonal judges and attorneys for misconduct while in office or for incapacitation. Finally, it publishes the semiannual Gazeta Legal (Legal Gazette), as well as the court's diary.

Each province has a Superior Court, whose judges are named by the CSJ. Within its jurisdiction, each Superior Court nominates penal, civil, labor, traffic, and tenancy judges, as well as fiscal agents, public defenders, notaries, registers of property and merchandise, and other judicial officials. Superior courts have first-instance jurisdiction in criminal cases involving provincial governors, mayors, members of electoral tribunals, customs officials, provincial judges, and police officials. They hear appeals from lower courts in both criminal and civil cases. They also resolve questions raised by lower-court judges and supervise their activities, as well as those of attorneys and notaries public. In addition, they appoint provincial and cantonal judges and attorneys.

Lower courts included thirty-five criminal and forty-two provincial courts in the late 1980s. They have first-instance jurisdiction in civil cases where the amount involved exceeds 8,000 sucres. They must consult the higher courts on the interpretation of the law. When ordered by higher courts, lower courts must have representatives visit the jails in the provinces to hear the complaints of inmates, correct any abuses caused by prison personnel, and secure the release of any person arrested or detained in an illegal manner. To be a provincial judge, a person must be a citizen and a lawyer with three years of service.

The eighty-seven cantonal courts have jurisdiction in civil cases where the amount involved is between 200 and 8,000 sucres. Cantonal judges also may fine political lieutenants (tenentes políticos), who are responsible for the administration of justice in each parish (parroquia), for negligence of duty. Finally, special courts try cases involving juveniles, and labor disputes.

The Fiscal Tribunal, consisting of three chambers and nine judges named by Congress, resolves tax controversies. The TCA, which consists of two chambers of three judges each who are named by Congress, resolves controversies originating in the public administration and monitors the application and fulfillment of the law by entities of the state and their officials.

The justices of the three judicial organs--CSJ, Fiscal Tribunal, and TCA--are subject to prosecution by Congress or, in its recess, the PCL. The Constitution prohibits the judges and fiscal officials from carrying out leadership functions in the political parties, or intervening in elections. They are also prohibited from serving as lawyers or holding other public or private positions, with the exception of university professorships.

The Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees

The TGC, rather than the CSJ, interprets and monitors compliance with the Constitution. Located in Quito, the TGC consists of eleven members and their substitutes, who serve for a two-year period, without the possibility of reelection. Congress appoints three TGC members who are nonlegislators and selects eight others from lists submitted by the president, the CSJ, the mayors and provincial prefects, the legal labor unions, and the Commercial Associations. TGC members selected to represent the legislative, executive, and judicial branches must not already be government officials; they must be citizens by birth, in possession of their rights of citizenship, over forty years of age, and doctors of jurisprudence; and they must have fifteen years of professional experience as lawyers, judges, or university professors in jurisprudence. TGC members representing the workers, the Commercial Associations, and the citizenry (such as the mayors and provincial prefects) are required only to be citizens by birth and in possession of their citizenship rights. The ministers of state, the comptroller general, and the leaders of recognized political parties may participate in TGC deliberations without voting rights.

The TGC's role has been secondary and temporary, and its decision-making power weak. Salgado points out that the control of constitutionality has been, in effect, entrusted to a largely political organ, Congress, which lacks the requisite impartiality for debating the unconstitutionality of laws, decrees, or resolutions enacted by Congress itself. Although the 1979 Constitution failed to give the TGC enforcement authority, the 1983 constitutional reforms partly rectified this deficiency. Under the 1983 reforms, the TGC may demand the dismissal of officeholders who violate TGC decisions, and the violators' superiors are obligated to comply; request judges to initiate penal action; or report its decision to Congress, which may act on it. The TGC may also suspend those laws, decrees, accords, regulations, ordinances, or resolutions that violate the Constitution. Nevertheless, it must submit its decision to Congress or, in its recess, to the PCL, for final resolution of the case of unconstitutionality. The PCL, for its part, has had relatively broad powers to control constitutionality.

The TGC has several other powers as well. During the recess of Congress, the TGC is empowered to authorize any foreign travel by the president and to revoke a state of national emergency. The Law of Municipal Regime allows the TGC to rule on cases involving the disqualification of municipal councillors (concejales municipales), vacancies, or unconstitutional ordinances that the Provincial Councils were unable to resolve. The Law of Political Parties of 1978 and the Law of Elections of 1987 also grant the TGC some electoral powers.

Ecuador - Public Administration

The Public Ministry is one of the autonomous agencies and is headed by the attorney general. The ministry consists of the state's only judicial representative, the attorney general (who may delegate this representation), and the ministers, fiscal agents, and other officials who determine the law and establish the ministry's powers, rights, reasons for dismissal, and replacement procedures. The attorney general, who serves four years, must meet the same requirements as the members of the CSJ. The office of the attorney general of the state is an autonomous organ headed by the attorney general.

The autonomous office of the comptroller general of the state manages the public funds and the property of public-sector entities. Its oversight extends to the private-sector entities that receive state subsidies. The comptroller general and the superintendents of banks and companies all serve for four years.

Ecuador - Local Government

The republic is divided administratively into provinces, cantons (municipalities), and parishes. Provinces are governed by a governor, cantons by a political chief (jefe político), and parishes by a political lieutenant. These officials all answer to, and are appointed by, the president or the executive branch. The Ministry of National Defense administers the Galápagos Islands.

Each of the twenty-one provinces has an autonomous provincial council, headed by a prefect who has only a deciding vote in case of ties in the council. The council, which has jurisdiction throughout the province and a seat in its capital, maintains public services, carries out public works, coordinates municipal activities, and informs the central government of budget expenditures. A municipal council, presided over by a mayor empowered to cast a deciding vote in case of ties, is responsible for the government of each canton, of which there were 103 in the late 1980s.

All provincial and municipal officials are elected for a fouryear period by direct and secret popular vote. In elections for mayor, president of the municipal council, and provincial prefect, the candidates who obtain the greatest number of votes are elected. Councils at both levels have functional, financial, and administrative autonomy. Their legislative decisions are issued in the form of ordinances.

The 746 parishes that existed in the late 1980s were predominantly rural areas governed by a political lieutenant and a parish council within its area of responsibility; over 100 were classified as urban parishes. Although the urban parishes were mainly voting districts, the rural ones also had municipal functions. The parish council is responsible for improving public services, executing public works, investing revenues, and carrying out any other duties required by law. Its members are elected by direct popular vote to serve a four-year term.

Ecuador - The Electoral Process

Under the 1987 Law of Elections, all citizens have the right to vote or be elected, except active-duty members of the Public Forces and anyone whose citizenship rights have been suspended. Electoral registrars (padrones electorales) determine citizens' qualifications to vote. The franchise is obligatory for those entitled to vote, with the exception of illiterates, persons over seventy-five years of age, those certified as sick or physically disabled, individuals who suffered a domestic calamity on election day or from one to eight days before, and citizens who are absent from the country or who arrived on the day of the election.

The 1979 Constitution establishes several innovations in the system for designating the president and vice president. Whereas previously they were elected by a plurality, the Constitution requires that they be elected by an absolute majority of votes. This usually requires a second electoral round between the two leading candidates. The three organs responsible for overseeing the electoral process, with the aid of the Public Forces, are the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal), TPEs (Provincial Electoral Tribunals), and the Vote Receiving Committees (Juntas Receptoras del Voto--JRVs).

As the highest of these bodies, the TSE is responsible for appointing and supervising TPE members, overseeing the electoral registrars, convoking elections and the entities that form the electoral colleges, counting electoral votes, resolving appeals of rulings made by the TPEs, and issuing regulations governing the political parties. The TSE must convoke elections at least 120 days in advance of the casting of ballots. If this deadline is missed by more than forty-eight hours, the TGC may convoke the elections or a popular referendum and replace the TSE members with their substitutes, although in 1989 the constitutionality of this arrangement remained an issue. The TSE must resolve within ten days appeals raised about TPE decisions not to register candidates, to nullify votes, to invalidate or annul the vote counting, or to impose penalties for electoral infractions. The TSE also resolves electoral complaints made against civil authorities.

The TPEs are formed by the TSE in each province. The seven TPE members, who serve two years, represent the various political parties. TPE members direct and oversee the electoral process in their own jurisdiction and see that the orders of the TSE are carried out. The TPEs also appoint the members of the JRVs, conduct vote counting in their jurisdiction in a popular referendum or in elections for mayor, and resolve complaints by citizens and political parties over electoral irregularities.

The JRVs receive ballots at a public polling place on the election days. For each election, the TPEs designate a number of JRVs in accordance with the electoral registrars. The JRVs each have three principal members, three substitutes, and a secretary, all of whom are selected by their respective electoral registrar. The various political parties must be represented in the JRVs. Parties submit suggested candidates to the TPE at least sixty days before elections. The principal powers and duties of the JRVs are to provide each citizen with ballots and later a certificate of having voted; to conduct partial vote counting immediately after the polls have closed; to determine the number of valid, blank, or null votes; and to remit the ballots to the TPEs.

Only legally recognized political parties may declare candidates and register them. Registration must be completed ninety days before the date of the elections. A citizen may not be a candidate in a national and provincial election simultaneously. The president and vice president of the republic, mayors, presidents of municipal councils, provincial prefects, and most of the councillors, council members, and national and provincial deputies are elected in the first electoral round every four years. The second electoral round is held two years after the first round. Provincial deputies, whose term lasts two years, and some replacements for councillors and council members are elected at that time.

The Constitution provides for a popular consultation (consulta popular), which the Law of Elections refers to more specifically as a plebiscite (generally held as a vote of confidence on an action of a government) or a referendum (generally held to approve the text of a law). Either the executive or the legislative branch of government may call on the electorate to resolve a divisive issue, although the former has greater prerogatives to hold a popular consultation.

The decision adopted by a popular consultation is final. Febres Cordero became embroiled in a constitutional row in early 1986 when he formally called for an election-day plebiscite on whether independent candidates should be allowed to run for elective office. The opposition, believing that the proposed reform was designed to concentrate political and economic power in the presidency, contended that Febres Cordero's action violated Article 78, which allows the president to call plebiscites on "issues of national transcendence," but not on constitutional amendments. The opposition also claimed that Febres Cordero violated a provision giving the president recourse to a plebiscite only if Congress votes against a constitutional reform proposed by the executive. Although Febres Cordero had his way and the plebiscite on the constitutional amendment was held in June 1986, he lost the vote by a margin of 58 to 26 percent.


Political Parties

The 1967 constitution was the first to introduce provisions for political parties. The 1979 Constitution attempts to strengthen the party-based system by giving parties state protection and financial assistance. For a party to receive state financial aid, it must have obtained at least 5 percent of the votes in elections for national and provincial deputies, councillors, and council members. In these elections, the parties are prohibited from forming alliances; each party is obliged to run its own candidates. Alliances are allowed, however, in elections for president and vice president, mayors, and prefects.

The Constitution apportions state financial aid to legally recognized parties as follows: 60 percent in equal parts to each party and the remaining 40 percent according to the votes obtained in the last national elections. Although the parties also receive contributions from their affiliates, they may not receive, directly or indirectly, financial donations from individuals or groups that have contracts with the state or from companies, institutions, or foreign states.

Article 37, which was widely debated prior to the holding of a popular referendum in June 1986, gives legally recognized parties a type of monopoly because only they can run candidates in an election. Whereas the Constitution gives any citizen the right to be elected, Article 37 prohibits a citizen from running as an independent candidate and requires candidates to be affiliated with a political party. Salgado observed that the party affiliation requirement probably strengthens the party system, but it does so by compromising the political right of any citizen to run for office.

Although Ecuadorians over eighteen years of age may join a political party, under the Law of Political Parties this right does not apply to active-duty members of the armed forces and National Police, ministers of any religious denomination, or anyone sentenced to jail for defrauding the state (at least until after a period double that of the prison sentence). The law also prohibits more than one party affiliation. The penalty of violating this law is loss of citizenship rights for one year.

The Constitution sets out the organizational requirements for a political party. It must have a party doctrine and a program of political action that are in accord with the national interests. A party must keep count of the number of its members and be organized on a national level; that is, its organization must extend to no fewer than ten provinces, including two of the three most populated provinces (which in the late 1980s were Guayas, Pichincha, and Manabí). The Law of Political Parties also establishes that the membership of a party must constitute no fewer than 1.5 percent of the registered voters in the last electoral turnout.

A grouping or political movement must seek TSE recognition as a party according to a procedure laid out in the Law of Political Parties. To participate in elections, a party must have been legally recognized six months before the holding of these elections. In the late 1980s, Ecuador had sixteen legal parties.

Any changes in the higher leadership of a party or in its statutes must be reported to the TSE within eight days. The principal leader of a party and the members of its higher leadership body serve two-year terms. The principal leader may be reelected only once, after a two-year period, for another term. When a party splits and two directorates are formed, the TSE must determine which faction is legitimate. To that end, each faction has a thirty-day period in which to present its case. The TSE then has fifteen days in which to decide on the case, and its decision is final. Other party problems generally are resolved internally and in accordance with the party's statutes and regulations. The party's national leadership or the elements in conflict may, however, submit their problem to the decision of the TSE.

According to the Law of Political Parties, the TSE may abolish a party that decides to dissolve itself, incorporates or joins with another party, does not participate in general elections in at least ten provinces, forms paramilitary organizations, or does not respect the required nonpolitical character of the active-duty armed forces and National Police. As originally formulated, the Law of Political Parties also provided that if a party failed to obtain at least 5 percent of the votes in each of two successive elections, the TSE could dissolve it by withdrawing its legal recognition. That provision was not in effect in 1988, however, having been declared unconstitutional because of a technicality; whereas the Law of Political Parties spoke of a required "electoral percentage," the Constitution refers only to an "electoral quotient."

Unless it is dissolving itself, a party being abolished by the TSE has sixty days in which to present documentation in its own defense. Notice of the abolishment of a party and the cancellation of its registration are published in the Registro Oficial del Estado and sent to the news media.

The Law of Political Parties guarantees parties the right to organize meetings, marches, and public demonstrations. A party must submit a written request to hold a public march or demonstration at least forty-eight hours in advance. The authority may reject a request only if another demonstration will be held at the same place, day, and hour, but will approve another date and hour and must act on the request within twenty-four hours. A rejection may be appealed to the TPE. Any march or public demonstration must also be authorized by the police authority in the provincial capitals, by the national commissioner (comisario nacional) in the cantons, and by the political lieutenant in the parishes. Parties do not require authorization to hold nonpublic meetings, but are obligated to inform the aforementioned authorities in advance. Counterdemonstrations are prohibited.

The Law of Political Parties also guarantees the right of parties to propagandize their programs. If, however, political propaganda or statements disseminated by news media impugn the honor or good name of someone, that individual may demand that the offender publish a retraction. If necessary, the individual may appeal to the TPE to have this demand carried out. Under the law, all means of social communication not owned by a party must provide access to all parties and may not enter into exclusive political propaganda contracts. Lastly, political proselytism in schools and colleges is prohibited, as is coercing someone to join a party, to vote for a candidate, to participate in marches or demonstrations, or to make financial contributions.

<>Traditional Parties
<>Other Parties
<>Personalist Movements
<>Party Politics in the 1980s
<>Political Forces and Interest Groups
<>The Roman Catholic Church
<>The Military
<>The Economic Elite
<>The Media

Ecuador - Traditional Parties

Middle- and upper-middle class professionals and businessmen have led Ecuador's two traditional parties, the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador--PC) and the Radical Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Radical--PLR), also commonly referred to as the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal). García Moreno established the PC in 1869 as a loosely structured party and gave it a rightist ideological base. The Conservative Party promoted close cooperation between church and state, a strong, centralized government, and private property. Its regional stronghold was the Sierra, particularly Quito and Cuenca (capital of Azuay Province). The PC monopolized political power from 1860 until 1895, when the PLR seized power as the outcome of a civil war. The PC steadily lost ground thereafter. Although neither party held the presidency between 1944 and 1989, the PC supported the successful presidential candidacy of Camilo Ponce Enríquez in 1956. The PC also consistently made a strong showing in municipal and congressional elections in the 1960s.

Like the Conservatives, the Liberals were slow to develop a formal party structure. According to Osvaldo Hurtado, although the Liberal political movement had strengthened organizationally and ideologically by the 1880s, especially in Guayaquil, it still lacked a formal political party and remained factionalized into two main groups. The original "civilist" faction consisted of doctrinaire intellectuals who opposed the Conservative governments through the press and legislature. In 1884 the six-year-old radical faction of the Liberals led by Eloy Alfaro and his revolutionary montoneras (guerrillas) proclaimed itself the true Liberal Party and took up arms on the Costa against the Conservative government. After the temporary defeat of the radicals in 1887, the civilist faction again assumed the leadership of the Liberals. The Liberal Party was formally organized as a political entity with the holding of its first assembly in Quito in July 1890. Nevertheless, party factionalism continued. In 1892 a "fusionist" faction broke away and joined the Conservatives. Liberal opposition to Conservative rule became so bitter, however, that Alfaro was able to consolidate the various factions into the Radical Liberal Party (PLR) by 1895, when it took power.

The PLR was the principal ruling party between 1895 and 1944, although the coup of July 9, 1925, marked the beginning of a gradual decline in the two-party structure and in Liberal hegemony. Since its founding, the PLR had been strongest in the Costa, but in the 1960s it also won a significant following in Quito. Since the 1920s, the PLR's platform has included anticlericalism and agrarian reform. The Radical Liberals traditionally aligned themselves with the armed forces and commercial interests. The armed forces, discredited by their association with the party, distanced themselves after 1942, but trade and banking interests continued to finance the PLR. Like the PC, the PLR garnered nearly a third of the vote in congressional elections in the decades prior to 1972.

The traditional parties depended to a considerable extent on the largess of wealthy individuals or economic interest groups. It was customary, moreover, for most donors to expect large returns on their investment, and most of them assumed the role of patrón (patron) toward the dependent party leaders, who were expected to assume a properly subservient attitude. Corruption was widely assumed to be an institutionalized attribute of partisan activities, and party platforms enjoyed little credibility.

Ecuador - Other Parties

The two-party structure began to decline in the early twentieth century as leftist parties emerged and the country experienced a quarter-century of political instability. Ecuador had at least four communist and socialist parties. The oldest was the Ecuadorian Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Ecuatoriano--PSE), founded in 1925 as a section of the Communist International. Consisting of a small group of intellectuals, the PSE was influential only through coalitions either with groups on the left, including the Communists, or more often, with the PLR. The PSE was one of the few parties that was neither regionally based nor personalist in character. Although it depended on wealthy groups and individuals for support, the PSE played a major role in formulating social welfare legislation.

The PSE gave birth to both the Moscow-oriented Ecuadorian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Ecuatoriano--PCE), which broke away in 1928, and the pro-Cuban Revolutionary Socialist Party of Ecuador (Partido Socialista Revolucionario del Ecuador--PSRE), which broke away in 1962. The PCE, a legal party, generally has concentrated on enhancing its position within organized labor, student organizations, and the educational bureaucracy; it had little voter appeal. By the 1970s, the PSRE had become the strongest advocate of revolution in the country. The PSRE and PCE, along with Christian leftists and Maoists, joined in 1977 to form a Moscow-line leftist front called the Broad Left Front (Frente Amplio de la Izquierda--FADI). Another PCE splinter group, the proChinese Communist Party of Ecuador--Marxist-Leninist (Partido Comunista del Ecuador--Marxista-Leninista--PCE-ML) formed in 1972.

Several noncommunist and Christian Democratic parties also emerged in the twentieth century. The Ecuadorian Nationalist Revolutionary Action (Acción Revolucionaria Nacionalista Ecuatoriana--ARNE), founded in 1942, was a highly nationalistic, anticommunist, quasi-fascist group with its strongest appeal among youths in the Sierra. The center-right Social Christian Party (Partido Social Cristiano--PSC) was established in 1951 and became the ruling party when Febres Cordero assumed the presidency in 1984. The Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano-- PDC), founded in 1964, affiliated with the International Christian Democratic Association. Its center-left platform attracted a small but growing following among workers, students, and young professionals.

In 1970 Rodrigo Borja broke away from the PLR and formed, in 1977, a Quito-based Social Democratic party, the center-left Democratic Left (Izquierda Democrática--ID). The ID became Ecuador's largest party and the voice of a new generation of reformist, professionally trained political leaders. The Alfarist Radical Front (Frente Radical Alfarista--FRA), a populist and centrist party, was established in 1972. Popular Democracy (Democracia Popular--DP), an affiliate of the Christian Democratic International, was founded in 1978 as a coalition of the PDC and the Progressive Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Progresista--PCP) and a breakaway faction of the PC. Because of its Christian Democratic membership, DP often was hyphenated with Democracia Cristiana.

Ecuador - Personalist Movements

According to Hurtado, political parties were always relatively insignificant in the Ecuadorian political process, whereas individuals transformed into caudillos played the dominant role. None of the personalist movements, however, had more than a temporary impact on politics, usually only as long as their leader enjoyed popularity. Major personalist movements have included the National Velasquista Party (Partido Nacional Velasquista--PNV), organized in 1952 by Velasco; the Social Christian Movement (Movimiento Social Cristiano--MSC), founded in 1951 by former president Camilo Ponce Enríquez; the Democratic Institutionalist Coalition (Coalición Institucionalista Democrática--CID), founded in 1965 by former provisional president Otto Arosemena Gómez; and the Concentration of Popular Forces (Concentración de Fuerzas Populares--CFP), a Guayaquil-based, populist and center-right party organized in the late 1940s as a splinter of the velasquista movement by Carlos Guevara Moreno, a former interior minister. In 1980 a roldosista faction broke away from the CFP and formed People, Change and Democracy (Pueblo, Cambio y Democracia--PCD), which dissolved after the death of its leader Jaime Roldós Aguilera in 1981. The populist Ecuadorian Roldosist Party (Partido Roldosista Ecuatoriano--PRE), led by Abdalá Bucaram Ortiz (nephew of Asaad Bucaram Elmhalim, a staunchly anti-Marxist former mayor of Guayaquil and former leader of the CFP) was founded in Guayaquil in late 1982.

In order to participate more effectively in elections, personalist movements often joined ad hoc coalitions of parties. Every president elected to office since 1944, with the exception of Velasco, owed his victory to a coalition rather than to a single party. Although most of these coalitions were unstable and shortlived , a few had a semipermanent character, emerging from dormancy at each election and representing roughly the same groups and interests each time. One of the most important was the National Democratic Front (Frente Democrático Nacional--FDN), which usually formed around the nucleus of the PLR, frequently along with the PSE. Often more successful than the moderate FDN was the conservative Popular Alliance (Alianza Popular--AP), usually composed of Conservatives, arnistas (members of ARNE), and MSC members. The AP was responsible for Ponce Enríquez's victory in 1956 and congressional victories in 1958 and 1962.

Ecuador - Party Politics in the 1980s

Ecuadorian politics in the 1980s constituted an increasingly bitter struggle among conservative, center-left, and far-left parties and their leaders. Political scientist Catherine M. Conaghan, commenting on the declining standards of Ecuadorian political discourse in the late 1980s, noted that "in the absence of strong institutions and new ideas, Ecuadorian politics has devolved into a highly personalized and often trivialized arena of intra-elite struggle."

Party competition in the 1980s was mainly between the PSC (Christian Social Party) and the ID (Democratic Left). Many blamed the heightened interparty friction on Febres Cordero, the PSC leader who won the presidency by polling 52.2 percent in the second round of voting in May 1984. Febres Cordero narrowly defeated Borja, who polled 47.8 percent as the ID candidate. Febres Cordero's conservative National Reconstruction Front (Frente de Reconstrución Nacional--FRN) coalition consisted of seven parties, including the traditional PC and PLR. The FRN held only twenty-nine of the seventy-one seats in Congress, however, and the opposition effectively controlled the remaining forty-two. The resulting political infighting threatened the stability of the country's fragile democracy on several occasions.

Febres Cordero promised an honest public administration and a revival of market principles in managing the economy. Nevertheless, his government suffered from a succession of political and economic crises. Ruling more in the style of a caudillo than an elected politician, Febres Cordero used his executive powers boldly, creating a number of constitutional conflicts with the other two branches of government. For example, in late 1985 he promulgated a controversial bill changing the electoral law and postponing the legislative elections scheduled for early 1986. The proposed reform, which was defeated in the plebiscite held on June 1, 1986, would not only have given the executive extraordinary economic powers, but would also have limited the right of habeas corpus, set a four-year term for all members of Congress, and allowed independents to be elected. Febres Cordero's authoritarian rule and strongly pro-United States policies were blamed for his government's major political defeat in the mid-term congressional elections by allied center-left and Marxist parties, which captured forty-three of the legislature's seventy-one seats.

Certain high-ranking military officials posed a challenge to Febres Cordero in 1986. He dismissed the armed forces chief of staff, Air Force Lieutenant General Frank Vargas Pazzos, for accusing the minister of national defense and an army commander of corruption. Vargas subsequently staged a week-long double revolt-- first at the Eloy Alfaro Air Base in Manta on the Pacific Coast and then at Quito's Marshal Sucre International Airport--and demanded the resignations of the two military leaders. A bloody battle in March ended the second revolt and resulted in Vargas's arrest. Although Congress granted Vargas amnesty that October, a decision upheld by the TGC, Febres Cordero refused to honor the decision, sparking a constitutional controversy.

During a presidential visit to the Taura Air Base outside Guayaquil in January 1987, paratroop commandos loyal to Vargas abducted Febres Cordero and his defense minister. They were released eleven hours later after Febres Cordero personally granted amnesty to Vargas and signed a written guarantee that no reprisals would be taken against either the rebellious former general or his commandos. A few days later, however, the army arrested the ninety- four paratroopers, who were then expelled from the air force. A military tribunal sentenced fifty-eight of them to prison sentences ranging from six months to sixteen years.

Rather than rallying around the president following the near overthrow of the democratic system, the leftist-dominated Congress called a special session to consider impeaching Febres Cordero for allowing himself to be kidnapped and then negotiating his release by freeing Vargas. Although the opposition was unable to obtain the two-thirds majority needed to impeach the president, it approved a nonbinding demand that Febres Cordero resign for "disgracing" the national honor.

Running as both a Socialist and a populist, Vargas participated in the first round of the 1988 presidential elections as the representative of the People's Patriotic Union (Unión del Pueblo Patriótico--UPP). To the surprise of many, Vargas placed fourth by garnering over 12 percent of the vote. In that election, Vargas's UPP also allied itself with the PSE (Ecuadorian Socialist Party), the Ecuadorian Revolutionary Popular Alliance (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Ecuatoriana--APRE), and FADI (Broad Left Front).

Also running as a center-left candidate was Jamil Mahuad Witt, a DP protégé of former president Osvaldo Hurtado. Mahuad won 11.5 percent of the vote. On the far left, Jaime Hurtado ran as the candidate of the Maoist-oriented Democratic Popular Movement (Movimiento Popular Democrático--MPD), with the backing of the FADI, but collected only 5 percent of the vote, behind the CFP's Angel Duarte, with nearly 8 percent.

Another contender was PRE leader Abdalá Bucaram Ortiz, who returned from Panama, where he had fled in 1985 after criticizing the armed forces, to participate in the first round of the presidential elections. Febres Cordero allowed the flamboyant, mercurial Bucaram to return in the belief that his candidacy would help weaken the center-left and unite the right. The 18.4 percent of the vote Bucaram garnered shocked all the candidates and their parties, especially those on the disunited right, whose prime contender, the PSC's Sixto Durán Ballén, placed third with not quite 15 percent of the vote. A high voter turnout (nearly 78 percent) throughout the country and particularly in Guayaquil contributed to Bucaram's impressive showing. He suddenly became a major challenger by edging out Durán and placing second to Rodrigo Borja who, as expected, was in first place, with 24.5 percent.

Accordingly, the second round of the presidential elections in May 1988 was a contest between Borja and Bucaram. Despite their lack of substantive policy differences--both favored economic nationalism and import substitution--their campaigns were characterized by hard-hitting personal attacks that, Conaghan notes, "brought the level of political discourse to a new low." Borja won, as expected, with 1.7 million ballots, or 47.4 percent of the vote. Bucaram, with the aid of the Lebanese community in Guayaquil, polled 40.3 percent, totaling about 1.45 million votes. (Of the approximately 3.8 million ballots cast, 425,000 were null and 45,000 blank.) This was a much better showing than expected, especially considering the failure of his PRE to win the support of any of the other major registered parties. Bucaram subsequently fled the country again to avoid an arrest order issued by the president of Guayaquil's Superior Court for alleged malfeasance when he was mayor of Guayaquil in 1985. Nevertheless, according to Conaghan, the electoral results legitimized Bucaram as a national leader and assured him a future role as a presidential contender.

Although Borja lost in the five coastal provinces, he carried the fourteen provinces of the Sierra and Oriente (eastern region), as well as the Galápagos Islands. (Sucumbíos, the twenty-first province, was not created until 1989.) He also made an important showing in Guayas Province and adjacent Los Ríos Province, winning about 33 percent of the vote. Borja's ID became the majority party by winning twenty-nine of the seventy-one seats in Congress and entering into a coalition with the Popular Democratic Union (Unión Democrática Popular--UDP) and DP (Popular Democracy), with seven seats, and FADI, with two seats. FADI was joined by the Movement for the Unity of the Left (Movimiento para la Unidad de la Izquierda--MUI) and the Revolutionary Movement of the Christian Left (Movimiento Revolucionario de la Izquierda Cristiana--MRIC). Borja also had the support of the FRA (Alfarist Radical Front), the Maoist MPD, and CFP (Concentration of Popular Forces).

Borja took office in August 1988 promising to reverse completely the policy course of Febres Cordero. He called for a "pluralist cabinet" and a "government of consensus," meaning a national understanding (concertación) among workers, employers, and the government. His cabinet included seven ID members, four independents, and one DP member, as well as the two secretaries general, who belonged to the ID. Borja, a former professor of constitutional law at the Central University, made respect for legal guarantees a central theme in the selection of his ministers. His government energetically investigated alleged civil abuses perpetrated by Febres Cordero's government and secured several convictions.

The Borja government also took a new direction by making moves to appease opposition elements within military and guerrilla ranks. In November 1988, with the approval of the CSJ and several other institutions, including the military, Borja pardoned the air force paratroopers who had kidnaped Febres Cordero and had become, in jail, heroes among left-wing and populist parties. In early 1989, the Borja government negotiated an agreement with the Eloy Alfaro Popular Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Populares Eloy Alfaro--FAP- EL), popularly known as the Alfaro Lives, Damnit! (¡Alfaro Vive, Carajo!--AVC), a guerrilla/terrorist group founded in 1982. Borja also pardoned a number of imprisoned former air force members. In mid-1989 his legislative coalition with Hurtado's Christian Democratic party ended by mutual accord: Hurtado had opposed it from the start, and Borja no longer needed the agreement with the Christian Democrats, having won the support of other small parties.

Ecuador - Political Forces and Interest Groups

Interest groups able to influence regime changes traditionally have included the church, the military, the agrarian elite, the largely Guayaquil-based commercial community, foreign commercial interests, the urban working class, the politically active peasantry and rural workers, and the middle class (including students). Some of these groups have formed alliances with or have manipulated less influential groups. Motivated primarily by parochial concerns, many of these interest groups, like the political parties themselves, have provided little impetus to national development. Other smaller interest groups have included the myriad of governmental autonomous agencies, which generally controlled their own funds and followed their own policies. Illegal political extremist organizations, such as the AVC and a nascent narcotics-trafficking mafia, may, in a sense, constitute additional, unconventional interest groups.

Ecuador - The Roman Catholic Church

The role of the Roman Catholic Church in society was the most divisive political issue in Ecuador for more than a century after independence. Despite the confiscation of its land by the Alfaro government at the beginning of the twentieth century, the church in the Sierra retained its preeminent position in social and economic life. In the more remote villages and small towns of the Sierra, the parish priest was often seen as the ultimate temporal, as well as spiritual, authority. The church gave religious and moral legitimacy to the actions of its defender, the PC. By contrast, the Costa was the base of the PLR, whose major platform traditionally had been anticlericalism. PLR policies caused the clergy and many devout laymen to rise to the defense of the church and its prerogatives. Nonetheless, by 1945 the church-state conflict had ceased to be a significant political issue on the national level.

In the 1960s, the church hierarchy, influenced by reformoriented papal encyclicals, endorsed land reform, a more just system of taxation, and workers' human rights. The church underwent a process of significant internal transformation and ideological renovation and found itself cast in the role of an advocate of farreaching change and innovation. Nevertheless, Thomas G. Sanders noted that the Catholic Church in Ecuador had become firmly committed to nonpartisanship by the late 1970s. According to Sanders, the Ecuadorian church's more neutral role contributed to political stability and strengthened pluralism by emphasizing national unity and the need to promote social justice.

Ecuador - The Military

Historically, the military establishment alternated between direct or indirect control over the executive functions in general and a more limited role of exercising a veto over policies considered to fall within the area of its corporate interests. In contrast with the pattern found in the majority of Latin American countries, the Ecuadorian military, which traditionally was allied with the PLR, early on became more closely identified with the merchant class than with the landholding elite. After the decline of the traditional parties in the early twentieth century and the rise of ad hoc political coalitions, however, the military acquired greater autonomy as an institutional political force.

Constitutions between 1945 and 1979 have legitimized the role of the military in policy making by allotting to the officer corps an official seat in the Senate. Interventions between 1945 and 1963 arose most often over issues considered basic by the military leadership. For example, in 1962 the military pressured President Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy to sever relations with Cuba and other socialist countries. When they ousted him in 1963, it was only after more than a year of encouragement by various political factions and economic interest groups, all of which were concerned over the chaotic drift in national affairs and over Arosemena's personal conduct. After assuming power, however, the military became increasingly confident of its ability to rule better than civilians. The changing attitude of the officer corps, coupled with its declining trust in civilian leaders, was attributed in part to a new emphasis in military training on technical and managerial skills and to extensive foreign training in general.

Factionalism within the armed forces has helped to account for the propensity of military plotting against civilian governments, as well as the difficulties encountered by the military establishment in its attempts to govern on its own. Civilian contenders for political power often sought the support of dissident elements of the military in order to topple an administration or to forestall an electoral outcome unfavorable to them. At the same time, factions within the military aligned themselves with civilian groups in order to strengthen their own positions vis-à-vis other military factions. For example, when widespread civilian discontent boded ill for the continuation of government by junta in 1966, important elements of the armed forces joined the civilian opposition and contributed to the fall of the junta.

On numerous occasions, the military applied its influence to ward off political developments that it opposed or to intervene indirectly. For example, when the leftist opposition in Congress undertook to impeach Febres Cordero in January 1987, armed forces representatives warned the president of Congress that the military would shut down the legislature if impeachment proceedings were not halted. Febres Cordero's interference in internal military matters, however, created resentments, as demonstrated dramatically by the military rebellions in March 1986. In June 1987, a group of about a dozen army and naval officers met with the defense minister and suggested that Febres Cordero resign. The military also reportedly threatened to intervene if Bucaram won the 1988 presidential election.

Ecuador - The Economic Elite

In popular usage, the term oligarchy referred to the old Quito upper class, whose fortunes were amassed originally through ownership of land, and to prominent commercial groups in Guayaquil. Although members of the wealthiest families historically seldom participated personally in politics--except for serving in diplomatic posts in Europe or the United States or as foreign ministers--the economic elite often appeared to manage political affairs to its own advantage.

Since the mid-twentieth century, associational interest groups representing the upper class have proliferated. Commercial, industrial, and agricultural associations became increasingly important, even in provincial capitals where informal connections were previously considered sufficient. After the constitution of 1967 allowed agricultural, commercial, and industrial associations to elect one senator each from the Sierra and one from the Costa, the Senate became dominated by representatives of employer groups.

Although lacking the claims to aristocracy of the Quito upper class, Guayaquil's commercial and financial elite was the wealthiest in the country. Its members espoused liberal principles, such as the expansion of political participation, but generally seemed even less disposed toward economic reforms than did its counterparts in Quito. The coastal elite participated in the political process by financing the campaigns of various parties and factions. It was well organized, principally through the Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce, and was capable of raising the banner of regional autonomy whenever its interests were threatened.

The provincial landowners formed the most conservative of all significant political groups. Their strength was much greater in the Sierra than on the Costa, and they were especially powerful in provincial and municipal affairs in the south. Until the dissolution of Congress in 1970, hacendado associations were strongly represented in that body, both through the regional senators and deputies representing the southern highland provinces and through the senators elected by the associations themselves. There was broad sympathy and support for the hacendado viewpoint among those who monopolized most instruments of power.

Ecuador - Labor

Disunited and poorly organized for most of its history, the labor movement developed only slowly and had only a marginal political impact. Precise figures on unionization in the late 1980s were practically nonexistent, even within the unions themselves. The organized labor movement was divided into four confederations and a number of independent federations. At the local level, labor organizations also took the form of artisan guilds, cooperatives, and neighborhood associations. In addition to representing only a minority of the workers in all sectors of employment (approximately one-fifth), the labor movement traditionally was weakened by rivalry and government repression. Nevertheless, it had influence disproportionate to its numbers as a result of the concentration of labor unions in urban areas, mainly Quito and Guayaquil, its organizational power, and the political impact of strikes and demonstrations on governments that did not enjoy strong support.

Professional or employee associations (cámaras), composed of middle-class, white-collar workers, constituted about 25 percent of all labor unions. Representing the dominant economic groups in the country, these associations exercised a predominant influence on economic policy; their representatives frequently held cabinet posts and other top government positions dealing with economics. The support of the associations proved crucial to most governments.

Although union organizations began forming in Ecuador early in the twentieth century, organized workers did not begin to acquire any influence until the late 1930s. Key events in Ecuador's labor history took place in 1938 with the promulgation of the Labor Code and the founding of the first labor confederation, the Ecuadorian Federation of Classist Organizations (Central Ecuatoriana de Organizaciones Clasistas--Cedoc). Between 1938 and 1949, some 550 labor organizations were formed. These included the country's second confederation, the Confederation of Ecuadorian Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Ecuatorianos--CTE), which began operating in 1944. A total of 3,093 unions were established between 1950 and 1973.

Cedoc was never an effective articulator of worker interests, being more concerned with religious causes, combating efforts to eliminate exclusion of ecclesiastical control and influence in labor organizations, and curtailing communist infiltration in the labor sector. Although of Catholic origin, Cedoc rejected its Christian Democratic leadership in 1976 and adopted a socialist orientation. The old leaders retained the support of a few grassroots organizations and formed a parallel organization. Approximately 80 percent of Cedoc's membership came from the Ecuadorian Federation of Peasant Organizations (Federación Ecuatoriana de Organizaciones Campesinas--Fenoc). In the mid-1980s, Cedoc had unions in fifteen of the twenty provinces; its estimated membership of 130,000 was largely composed of artisans, with almost no industrial worker membership. After twelve years of political division, the two Cedoc branches united in 1988 and formed the Ecuadorian Confederation of Classist Organizations for Workers' Unity (Confederación Ecuatoriana de Organizaciones Clasistas para la Unidad de los Trabajadores--CEDOCUT).

Through militant activities, such as petitions, collective conflicts, and general strikes, the CTE--composed predominantly of industrial workers and led by members of the communist and socialist parties--emerged as the principal labor organization in Ecuador in the late 1970s. Although the CTE had become the largest of the three national confederations by the 1970s, its hegemony declined in the 1980s as a result of the growth of rival confederations, internal conflicts and splits, and governmental repression. In 1987 only a shadow remained of its peasant federation, the Ecuadorian Indian Federation (Federación Ecuatoriana de Indios--FEI). The CTE still included a number of industrial unions and various public-sector unions, and was organizing autonomous workers. It encompassed an estimated 55,000 members in 200 affiliated unions.

The Communist Party of Ecuador--Marxist-Leninist established a small federation, the General Union of Ecuadorian Workers (Unión General de Trabajadores Ecuatorianos--UGTE), in an attempt to rival the CTE. Apart from the powerful National Union of Teachers (Unión Nacional de Educadores--UNE), which had about 100,000 members, the UGTE had little success in affiliating unions. Together with student unions and a few other groups, the UGTE formed the Popular Front (Frente Popular--FP), which in the 1980s was attempting to rival the United Workers Front (Frente Unitario de Trabajadores-- FUT) in organizing protest action.

The Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers (Organización Regional Interamericana de Trabajadores--ORIT) tried to unify the non-Marxist unions by founding the Ecuadorian Confederation of Free Trade Union Organizations (Confederación Ecuatoriana de Organizaciones Sindicales Libres--CEOSL) in 1962. CEOSL, the third-largest confederation, membership consisted almost exclusively of urban white- and blue-collar workers. The CEOSL included fourteen provincial and thirteen national federations made up of a large proportion of industrial workers, a number of members from the service sector, and a small number of agricultural workers, peasants, and craftsmen.

FUT emerged in 1971 and eventually united the three main confederations--Cedoc, CEOSL, and CTE--plus a number of independent unions, including the Catholic Federation of Workers (Central Católica de Obreros--CCO), making FUT the country's largest workers' confederation. By the 1980s, FUT totaled an estimated 300,000 members and emerged as the leader of a massive movement that arose spontaneously to protest the economic crisis, and that greatly outnumbered the ranks of unionized workers. FUT nearly toppled President Hurtado in 1982 when he introduced austerity measures in the face of the debt crisis. In June 1988, FUT, together with the National Coordinator of Workers (Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores--CNT), the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador--Conaie), and FP, staged a one-day national strike aimed at obtaining a large increase in the minimum wage and a freeze on the prices of basic goods. It was the seventh general labor action against the Febres Cordero government and coincided with an ongoing strike by the UNE for a rise in monthly wages. The impact of FUT remained limited, however, because the federation tended to maintain its working-class orientation, based on wage claims, and in practice gave relatively little importance to the claims of other sectors that looked to it for leadership.

Ecuador - Students

Beginning in the first decade of the twentieth century, students took to the streets on a number of occasions in defense of public freedoms, university autonomy and reform, separation of church and state, and opposition to dictatorship. Following the establishment in 1944 of the Federation of University Students of Ecuador (Federación de Estudiantes Universitarios del Ecuador-- FEUE), the student movement, spurred by campus representatives of the political parties, became increasingly politicized and one of the most influential pressure groups in the country, playing a role in every nonconstitutional change of government. Both the FEUE and the Federation of High School Students of Ecuador (Federación de Estudiantes Secundarios del Ecuador--FESE) contributed significantly to the downfall in 1966 of the military junta, which had abolished university autonomy and student-faculty government. Student federations were organized at Catholic universities in 1966 and at the polytechnic schools in 1969. In the early 1970, the FEUE represented some 40,000 student at five public and two Catholic universities, one non-Catholic private university, and the polytechnic schools.

During the late 1960s, the student movement, heavily influenced by the Cuban Revolution, had assumed a militantly anti-oligarchy, anti-military, and anti-imperialist orientation. Student radicalism prompted the military government to intervene brutally in the Central University in 1966 and to close it in 1970. In the late 1970s, the student movement, seriously weakened as a result of endemic factionalism and the increasing isolation of the FEUE leadership, faced invincible shortcomings. With few exceptions, the political action of the university federations in the 1970s had gone no farther than press statements, graffiti, revolutionary pamphlets, street demonstrations, meetings, strikes, and work stoppages. Consequently, the groups had lost their traditional political prestige and the support of important segments of the student population.

Ecuador - The Media

Although the 1979 Constitution accords Ecuadorians the right to freedom of opinion and expression of thought, media ownership has remained concentrated in the hands of a few large interests. In the late 1980s, all media were privately controlled, except the National Radio (Radio Nacional), which was operated by the government's ministerial-level National Communications Secretariat (Secretaría Nacional de Comunicaciones--Senac), previously called the National Secretariat for Public Information (Secretaría Nacional de Información Pública--Sendip) under the Febres Cordero administration. The government, however, controlled the allocation of radio and television frequencies. Historically, most media owners endorsed the political status quo and gave tacit support to right-wing governments and even to dictatorships. In the 1980s, however, conservative interests were less dominant in radio than in television and the written press.

The Febres Cordero government used the media systematically in an effort to gain media support for its free-market economic policies, and in the process it infringed on press freedom. For example, in late 1984 the government temporarily closed five radio stations--four in Guayaquil and one in Quito--after they broadcast Guayaquil mayor Abdalá Bucaram's censure of Febres Cordero. The government also used economic means of pressure, such as suspending its substantial public-sector advertising in the center-left daily Hoy and the monthly magazine Nueva, as well as pressuring private banks and companies not to advertise in these publications. As a result, the independent media initially omitted or toned down criticism of the government. However, two prestigious inter-American media associations criticized the Febres Cordero government for alleged violations of press freedom. In a report released in March 1985, the Inter-American Press Association accused the government of intolerance toward the independent press and a lack of objectivity in government press releases. In addition, many opposition journalists complained that the government was using legal or pseudo-legal devices and pretexts to reduce further the already limited space available to the minority press. In 1987 opposition radio and television stations continued to experience government attempts to stifle the media. The ability of the government to pressure state and private companies to discriminate against the independent media diminished following the erosion of Febres Cordero's standing and influence.

On taking office in August 1988, Borja vowed to uphold freedom of the press and appointed various journalists to high-level governmental posts. The Senac, composed of new members appointed by Borja, undertook efforts to make the government accessible to the media and to promote freedom of the press. Senac also abolished the progovernment simulcasts initiated by the Febres Cordero administration and allowed Channel 5 in Quito to resume broadcasting in August 1988, after being closed for four years.

Ecuador had ten principal television stations in the late 1980s. The country's commercial radio stations numbered over 260, including 10 cultural and 10 religious stations. The "Voice of the Andes" station had operated for more than fifty years as an evangelical Christian shortwave radio service supported largely by contributions from the United States.

Ecuador had only thirty daily newspapers in the late 1980s. The newspapers with the largest circulations, El Comercio and El Universo, were published in Quito and Guayaquil respectively. Founded in the 1920s, they were closely connected with each city's small but powerful business community in the 1980s. Quito and Guayaquil each had four dailies. Quito's largest newspaper, El Comercio, was conservative and had a circulation of 130,000. El Comercio also owned an evening newspaper, #Ultimas Notícias. The Quito-based Hoy, founded in the early 1980s, had a circulation in 1987 of between 35,000 and 40,000. Guayaquil's El Universo was independent and had a circulation of between 120,000 and 190,000 on weekdays and 225,000 on Sundays. Guayaquil's second newspaper, Expreso, published evening newspapers in both cities: Extra in Guayaquil and La Hora in Quito. Some ten international news agencies had bureaus in Quito.

The principal weekly periodicals that covered political and economic affairs were Quito's La Calle, with a circulation of 20,000, and Guayaquil's Análisis Semanal and Vistazo. Nueva, with a circulation of between 12,000 and 14,000, was founded in the early 1970s as an alternative magazine oriented to those sectors of the population that were under-represented by the traditional press, such as trade union workers, intellectuals, and Indians.

Among Ecuador's ten principal publishers, only Editorial Claridad and Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, published books on politics. According to the United States Department of State in the late 1980s, there was no political censorship of domestic or foreign books, films, or works of art, and no government interference with academic inquiry.


According to the United States Department of State, Ecuador's principal foreign-policy objectives have included defense of the national territory from external aggression and internal subversion; support for the objectives of the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS); and defense of its claim to 200 miles of territorial and fisheries jurisdictions off its coast; and revision of the 1942 Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Boundaries (Rio Protocol), which ended, at least officially, open warfare between Peru and Ecuador over a territorial dispute. Although Ecuador's foreign relations traditionally have centered on the United States, Ecuador's membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the 1970s and 1980s allowed some Ecuadorian leaders to exercise somewhat greater foreign policy autonomy. Ecuador's international foreign policy goals under the Borja government in the late 1980s were more diversified than those of the Febres Cordero administration, which closely identified with the United States. For example, Ecuador was more active in its relations with the Third World, multilateral organizations, Western Europe, and socialist countries.

<>The United States
<>Other Nations and International Organizations

Ecuador - The United States

The United States maintained good relations with Ecuador's democratically elected governments in the 1980s. These close ties were based on trade, investment and finance, cooperation in Ecuador's economic development, and participation in inter-American organizations and treaties, including the Western Hemisphere's regional mutual security treaty, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) of 1947. The United States provided US$48 million in assistance to Ecuador in 1988 and was its main commercial partner. The United States provided economic assistance through its Agency for International Development program in Ecuador and multilateral organizations, such as the InterAmerican Development Bank and World Bank. In addition, the United States Peace Corps operated a sizable program in Ecuador.

Three irritants in particular affected bilateral relations in the 1970s and 1980s. One was the United States Foreign Trade Act of 1974, which denied (until the 1980s) favorable tariff treatment to all OPEC members, even though neither Ecuador nor Venezuela participated in the 1973 oil boycott of the United States. Ecuador also reacted indignantly in early 1977 when the United States prohibited Israel from selling a dozen Kfir fighter-bombers to Ecuador because the aircraft contained licensed General Electric engines. In 1981, however, the United States lifted the prohibition. An additional aggravation was a dispute over the extent of the territorial sea claimed by Ecuador since 1953 and its rights over highly migratory fish traveling through these waters. In the early 1970s, Ecuador seized about 100 tuna boats flying the United States flag and collected fines and fees totaling more than US$6 million. No additional seizures occurred until November 1980, when ten tuna boats were detained while fishing and fined. That action provoked a United States embargo on the importing of tuna from Ecuador. Although still unresolved, the territorial sea and fishing issues did not adversely affect bilateral relations for most of the 1980s.

Febres Cordero's foreign policy was characterized by a marked preference for bilateralism and closer ties to the United States. His foreign and economic policies mirrored those advocated by the administration of President Ronald Reagan, particularly on matters related to Central America and Latin America's international debt. During Febres Cordero's week-long state visit to Washington in January 1986, United States and Ecuadorian officials repeatedly underlined their two presidents' total agreement on economic and political matters.

Ecuador was almost alone in its enthusiastic reception of the 1986 Baker Plan (named after then United States secretary of the treasury James A. Baker III) for alleviating Third World debt, which called for fresh infusions of capital into the debt-ridden countries, contingent on structural reforms. Febres Cordero advocated bilateral negotiation rather than the use of a regional "cartel" to renegotiate the debt and strongly favored an "understanding" between debtor and creditor nations. (Nevertheless, Ecuador stopped paying interest on its debt in 1987.) The Febres Cordero government also ignored petroleum production quotas set by OPEC and threatened to withdraw from the cartel as well.

Febres Cordero approved "Operation Blazing Trails," a United States-sponsored civic-action project to repair bridges and roads in the earthquake-devastated province of Napo. The project involved rotating contingents of 600 United States troops through the country at fifteen-day intervals beginning in May 1986, until an Ecuadorian congressional resolution in July called for their immediate withdrawal. Marxist and centrist leaders alike had denounced Febres Cordero's approval of the project as a violation of national sovereignty.

United States secretary of state George P. Shultz attended Borja's swearing-in ceremony on August 10, 1988. During his first year in office, Borja remained on good terms with the United States. In his meeting with United States vice president Daniel Quayle in Caracas in February 1989, Borja stressed the need for good relations within the framework of mutual respect and nonintervention in Ecuador's domestic affairs. The Borja government expressed satisfaction with the proposal presented in March 1989 by United States treasury secretary Nicolas Brady regarding the Latin American debt problem. The Brady Plan called for the creditor banks to write off a portion of a poor country's indebtedness in return for guaranteed repayment of the remaining debt. Nevertheless, Borja favored a Bolivian-style policy of holding back payments because of poverty.

Ecuador - Other Nations and International Organizations

Ecuador and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations in 1969, but it was not until 1972, when Ecuador joined OPEC, that the Soviets showed much interest in Ecuador. By the mid-1970s, the Soviet Union maintained an embassy in Quito rivaling in importance that of the United States.

Ecuador traditionally favored multilateral approaches to international problems. It belonged to the UN, the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), the OAS, and other regional integration groupings, such as the Latin American Economic System (Sistema Económica Latinoamericano--SELA), the Latin American Energy Organization, the Latin American Integration Association, and the Andean Pact. Ecuador--along with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and Peru--signed the Andean Pact and the Cartagena Agreement in 1969, creating an Andean Common Market. In 1978 Ecuador and seven other South American countries signed the Amazon Pact treaty for the joint development of the Amazon River Basin.

Febres Cordero, however, took exception to Ecuador's traditional multilateralism. Impatient with regional and multilateral arrangements, he opposed the clause in the Andean Pact that restricted foreign investment, and sought to have it liberalized. To that end, Ecuador threatened several times to withdraw from the Andean Pact. It did not send a representative to the 1986 meeting of the group's foreign ministers in Uruguay. The Febres Cordero government also kept a low profile in the OAS, the SELA, and the Cartagena Group.

Praised as "realistic and pragmatic" by some, Febres Cordero's foreign policy was criticized as "erratic and incongruous" by others. Evidence supporting both these views could be found in his government's relations with Cuba and Nicaragua and his positions on Latin American issues. On April 16, 1985, Febres Cordero became the first conservative Latin American president to visit Cuba since Fidel Castro Ruz took power twenty-six years earlier. The Ecuadorian president reportedly talked at length with Castro about ways to ease the region's foreign debt burden and bring peace to Central America.

The Febres Cordero government kept its distance, however, from most of the region's initiatives to promote Latin American solidarity. In October 1985, Ecuador joined the so-called Lima Group of four South American nations--Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay--supporting the search for peace in Central America initiated by the Contadora Group (consisting of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama, whose ministers first met in 1983 on Contadora Island in the Gulf of Panama). Nonetheless, Ecuador not only withdrew from the Lima Group later that month, but also became the first Latin American nation to break diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. The break in relations, which came suddenly after Febres Cordero and Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega Saavedra traded public insults, had the unintended effect of isolating Ecuador from other Latin American countries. Some observers also viewed it as Febres Cordero's response to the United States' request for a blockade of international aid to Nicaragua.

In his inaugural address, Borja vowed to pursue an independent, nonaligned foreign policy based on the principles of selfdetermination and nonintervention. He believed that Latin American unity should take priority over ideological differences. Accordingly, he invited both Ortega and Castro to his inauguration ceremony on August 10. Castro attended the event, but Febres Cordero refused to allow Ortega into the country, except as a tourist. Consequently, Ortega delayed his arrival in Quito until August 11, by which time Borja, in one of his first official acts as head of state, had restored diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. Borja also expanded the relationship that Febres Cordero had initiated with Cuba, allowing some Cuban and Nicaraguan advisers to assist in Ecuador's National Literacy Program. In addition, he criticized the policy of isolating Cuba from international forums, such as the UN and OAS.

Borja also endorsed the establishment of an OPEC common front to defend oil prices, to fulfill the obligations that Ecuador assumed in the modifying protocol of the Cartagena Agreement, and to reincorporate Ecuador into the group of Latin American countries supporting the Central American peace process. The Borja government anticipated good relations with Venezuela, another OPEC member whose president, Carlos Andrés Pérez, was Borja's closest associate in the region. In early 1989, however, the Group of Eight (the eight democratic Latin American countries which belonged to the former Contadora or Lima Groups) rejected Ecuador's bid for membership. Nevertheless, in June 1989 Colombian president Virgilio Barco Vargas invited Ecuador to replace Panama in the Group of Eight. In September 1989, Borja stated publicly his belief that General Manuel Antonio Noriega, Panama's de facto leader as commander of the Panama Defense Forces, should step down, but added that he opposed United States military intervention to depose him.

A protracted border dispute continued to strain relations between Ecuador and Peru. The approximately 200,000-squarekilometer area of the Amazon (the Marañón district), which Ecuador had claimed since the nineteenth century, contained the city of Iquitos on the west bank of the Amazon River and also Peru's main jungle petroleum-producing region. Since 1960, when Ecuador's president Velasco declared invalid the Rio Protocol, under which the area was recognized as Peru's, Ecuador had continued to assert its right to the disputed region and to emphasize its need for an outlet to the Atlantic via the Amazon River. A small border war with Peru broke out on January 28, 1981, in the Condor mountain range, which runs along the border between the Amazon Basin and Ecuador. After Peruvian forces drove Ecuadorian troops back from the border posts, a ceasefire came into effect on February 1. A commission composed of the military attachés of the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, who helped negotiate the cease-fire, was charged with supervising the border area. Most Ecuadorians, however, supported their government's efforts to obtain a revision of the 1942 protocol.

As a vice president of the Socialist International, Borja enjoyed good relations with several West European countries. He was particularly close to Portuguese President Mario Lopes Soares, who attended his inauguration. The French-speaking Ecuadorian president was also a long-time admirer of France's president François Mitterrand, whose wife Danielle attended the installation ceremony on behalf of France. The deputy prime minister of Spain also attended, as did representatives from the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and Sweden. The Soviet Union and China were also represented at the inauguration. The Borja government reaffirmed Ecuador's support for the rights of the Palestinian people and for a peaceful, just, and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict within the framework of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and an international conference under UN auspices. Borja attended the NAM summit in Yugoslavia in September 1989.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

TRY USING CTRL-F on your keyboard to find the appropriate section of text


what's new | rainforests home | for kids | help | madagascar | search | about | languages | contact

Copyright 2013 Mongabay.com