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Ecuador - Acknowledgments

The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of Thomas E. Weil, Jan Knippers Black, Howard I. Blutstein, David S. McMorris, Mildred Gill Mersereau, Frederick P. Munson, and Kathryn E. Parachini, who wrote the 1973 edition of the Area Handbook for Ecuador. Portions of their work were incorporated into the present volume.

The authors are grateful to individuals in various agencies of the United States government and private institutions who gave their time, research materials, and special knowledge to provide information and perspective. None of these agencies or institutions is in any way responsible for the work of the authors, however.

The authors also wish to thank those who contributed directly to the preparation of the manuscript. These include Sandra W. Meditz, who reviewed all drafts and served as liaison with the sponsoring agency; Ruth Nieland, who edited the chapters; Martha E. Hopkins and Marilyn Majeska, who managed editing and production; and Barbara Edgerton, Janie L. Gilchrist, and Izella Watson, who did the word processing. Cissie Coy performed the final prepublication editorial review, and ___ compiled the index. The Library of Congress Printing and Processing Section performed phototypesetting, under the supervision of Peggy Pixley.

David P. Cabitto, who was assisted by Sandra K. Ferrell and Wayne Horne, provided invaluable graphics support. Harriet R. Blood, David P. Cabitto, and Greenhorne and O'Mara prepared the maps. David P. Cabitto also deserves special thanks for designing the illustrations for the book's cover and the title page of each chapter.

The authors also would like to thank several individuals who provided research support. Arvies J. Staton supplied information on military ranks and insignia, and Karen M. Sturges-Vera wrote the section on geography.

Ecuador - Preface

Like the 1973 Area Handbook for Ecuador, this study is an attempt to treat in a compact and objective manner the dominant social, political, economic, and military aspects of contemporary Ecuador. Sources of information included scholarly books, journals, and monographs; official reports of governments and international organizations; numerous periodicals; and interviews with individuals having special competence in Ecuadorian and Latin American affairs. Measurements are given in the metric system.

Although there are numerous variations, Spanish surnames generally consist of two parts: the patronymic name followed by the matronymic. In the instance of Rodrigo Borja Cevallos, for example, Borja is his father's name, Cevallos, his mother's maiden name. In informal use, the matronymic is often dropped. Thus, after the first mention, we have usually referred simply to Borja. A minority of individuals use only the patronymic. For purposes of clarity, some individuals with common patronymics, such as Gabriel García Moreno, are referred to with both patronymics and matronymics. Special rules govern discussion of Galo Plaza Lasso, who is referred to by Ecuadorian historians and throughout this book as Galo Plaza to differentiate him from his father, Leónidas Plaza Gutiérrez.

Ecuador - History

THROUGHOUT ITS HISTORY, Ecuador has displayed a continuity in traditional cultural and economic patterns as well as in social and political interaction among the country's highly heterogeneous social groupings. Modern patterns overlay the traditional, making present-day Ecuador a veritable living museum of its varied, rich heritage. Pre-Columbian Ecuador is reflected in the persistence of native languages, customs, and economic activities among a considerable, though diminishing, number of communities in the Sierra (Andean highlands) and the Oriente (eastern region). The legacy of three centuries of Spanish colonial rule is also pervasive and includes a social inequality that largely coincides with race, rural land tenure patterns, and the nation's dominant European cultural expressions.

Analysts of Ecuador's postindependence political history have pointed to a number of persistent ingredients. Regionalism is especially prominent, particularly as expressed in the struggle for power between the Sierra, represented by Quito, and the Costa (coastal region), represented by Guayaquil. Regionalism has coincided with the party struggle between the Quito-based Conservatives and the Guayaquil-based Liberals. Personalism, from the political prominence of military caudillos in the early years of the republic to the civilian dictators and the populists of more recent times, has been another persistent theme since independence.

Perhaps the most consistent element of Ecuador's republican history has been its political instability. In just over a century and a half, there have been no fewer than eighty-six changes of government, making for an average of 1.75 years in power for each regime. The 1979 Constitution is Ecuador's seventeenth national charter. Ecuador's political instability is a product of the struggles mentioned above combined with the important political role maintained by the nation's armed forces. The longest periods of civilian, constitutional rule were between 1912 and 1925 and again between 1948 and 1961. Governmental institutions, as a result, have had little opportunity to mature into established expressions of civilian, democratic rule.

Ecuadorian economic history has displayed marked cycles of "boom" and "bust" based on the rise and fall of particular export products. The longest-lasting "boom," between the last years of the nineteenth century and the early 1920s, resulted from Ecuador's near monopoly on the production and exportation of cacao. An onagain , off-again banana boom punctuated the decades of the 1950s and 1960s, whereas the oil boom--the most pronounced as well as the shortest of all the boom periods--lasted from 1972 until 1979. The sudden end of the oil expansion coincided with the onset of a foreign debt crisis bred by massive foreign borrowing by two successive military governments (1972-79) and by Jaime Roldós Aguilera's regime (1979-81).

Although petroleum revenues brought about significant social change by generating a sizable middle class, the widely anticipated political changes were less apparent. The populist Roldós and Conservative León Febres Cordero Ribadeneyra (1984-88) represented traditional elements, although other prominent postboom personalities, such as Osvaldo Hurtado Larrea (1981-84), did espouse more modern, center-leftist ideologies. Still, prosperity from petroleum strengthened the state's traditionally weak fiscal hand and promised to tilt the regional balance of power significantly toward the nation's capital.

The intensity of the political struggle, commonly played out between the president and Congress during periods of civilian rule, did not seem to diminish after 1979. Perhaps the central unanswered question of the 1980s, however, was whether the armed forces would persist in their historically active political role, or would be content to operate from the sidelines without directly intervening in the political process.


Ecuador offers little archeological evidence of its preHispanic civilizations. Nonetheless, its most ancient artifacts-- remnants of the Valdivia culture found along the coast north of the modern city of Santa Elena in Guayas Province--date from as early as 3500 B.C.. Other major coastal archaeological sites are found in the provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas; major sites in the Sierra are found in Carchi and Imbabura provinces in the north, Tungurahua and Chimborazo provinces in the middle of the Andean highlands, and Cañar, Azuay, and Loja provinces in the south. Nearly all of these sites are dated in the last 2,000 years. Large parts of Ecuador, including almost all of the Oriente, however, remain unknown territory to archaeologists.

Knowledge of Ecuador before the Spanish conquest is limited also by the absence of recorded history within either the Inca or pre-Inca cultures as well as by the lack of interest taken in Ecuador by the Spanish chroniclers. Before the Inca conquest of the area that comprises modern-day Ecuador, the region was populated by a number of distinct tribes that spoke mutually unintelligible languages and were often at war with one another. Four culturally related Indian groups, known as the Esmeralda, the Manta, the Huancavilca, and the Puná, occupied the coastal lowlands in that order from north to south. They were hunters, fishermen, agriculturalists, and traders. Trade was especially important among different coastal groups, who seem to have developed considerable oceanic travel, but the lowland cultures also traded with the peoples of the Sierra, exchanging fish for salt.

The Sierra was populated by elements, from north to south, of the Pasto, the Cara, the Panzaleo, the Puruhá, the Cañari, and the Palta cultures. These people lived mostly on mountainsides and in widely dispersed villages located in the fertile valleys between the Cordillera Occidental (Western Chain) and the Cordillera Oriental (Eastern Chain) of the Andes. The Sierra natives were a sedentary, agricultural people, cultivating maize, quinoa, beans, and many varieties of potatoes and squashes. The use of irrigation was prevalent, especially among the Cañari. A wide variety of fruits, including pineapples and avocados, was grown in the lower, warmer valleys. Historians believe that political organization centered around local chieftains who collaborated with one another in confederations or were subjected to "kings." Such local chiefs had considerable authority; they could raise armies, for example, and administer communal lands.

The Inca expansion northward from modern-day Peru during the late fifteenth century met with fierce resistance by several Ecuadorian tribes, particularly the Cañari, in the region around modern-day Cuenca; the Cara in the Sierra north of Quito; and the Quitu, occupants of the site of the modern capital, after whom it was to be named. The conquest of Ecuador began in 1463 under the leadership of the ninth Inca, the great warrior Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui. In that year, his son Topa took over command of the army and began his march northward through the Sierra. After defeating the Quitu, he moved southward along the coast, and from there he launched an extensive ocean journey that took him, depending on the account, to the Galápagos Islands or to the Marquesas Islands in Polynesia. Upon his return, he tried unsuccessfully to subdue the populations around the Gulf of Guayaquil and the island of Puná. By 1500 Topa's son, Huayna Capac, overcame the resistance of these populations and that of the Cara, and thus incorporated all of modern-day Ecuador into Tawantinsuyu, as the Inca empire was known.

The influence of these conquerors based in Cuzco (modern-day Peru) was limited to about a half century, or less in some parts of Ecuador. During that period, some aspects of life remained unchanged. Traditional religious beliefs, for example, persisted throughout the period of Inca rule. In other areas, however, such as agriculture, land tenure, and social organization, Inca rule had a profound effect despite its relatively short duration. Farming remained the major form of subsistence, but the Inca introduced a variety of new crops, including yucca, sweet potatoes, coca, and peanuts. The use of llamas and irrigation was expanded considerably. Largely in private hands previously, land became, in theory at least, the property of the Inca emperor. In practice, most land was held collectively by the ayllu, an agrarian community group headed by a curaca, that was the basic social grouping under the Inca. Within the ayllu, each domestic family unit was allotted a small plot of arable land to grow food for its own consumption. The state and the clergy also held a substantial amount of land, which was worked by the emperor's subjects as part of their obligatory public service.

Emperor Huayna Capac became very fond of Quito, making it a secondary capital of Tawantinsuyu and living out his elder years there before his death in about 1527. He preferred to rule through local curacas as long as they were willing to accept the divine authority of the Inca and to pay tribute. When he met opposition, the emperor dispersed large parts of local populations to other areas of the empire and replaced them with colonists who were brought from as far away as Chile. This wholesale movement of populations helped spread Quechua, the language of Cuzco, into Ecuador. A standing army, a large bureaucracy, and a temporally important clergy further enforced the rule of the emperor.

Huayna Capac's sudden death from a strange disease, described by one Spanish chronicler as "probably smallpox or measles," precipitated a bitter power struggle between Huascar, a son borne by Huayna Capac's sister and thus the legitimate heir, and Atahualpa, a son who, although borne by a lesser wife, was reputedly his father's "favorite." This struggle raged during the half-decade before the arrival of Francisco Pizarro's conquering expedition in 1532. The key battle of this civil war was fought on Ecuadorian soil, near Riobamba, where Huascar's northbound troops were met and defeated by Atahualpa's southbound troops. Atahualpa's final victory over Huascar in the days just before the Spanish conquerors arrived resulted in large part from the loyalty of two of Huayna Capac's best generals, who were based in Quito along with Atahualpa. The victory remains a source of national pride to Ecuadorians as a rare case when "Ecuador" forcefully bettered a "neighboring country."


The discovery and conquest of Ecuador by Spanish forces in the early sixteenth century are adjuncts to the history of the conquest of Peru, the richest of the New World prizes won for the Spanish crown. The central figure of that history is Pizarro, an illiterate adventurer from Trujillo in the Spanish region of Extremadura, who had accompanied Vasco Núñez de Balboa in his crossing of the Isthmus of Panama to discover the Pacific in 1513. Eleven years later, Panamanian governor Pedro Arias de Avila ("Pedrarias") authorized Pizarro, in partnership with an equally questionable character, a Castilian named Diego de Almargo, and a priest named Fernando de Luque, financing to explore southward down the west coast of South America. Their first two voyages, in 1524 and 1526, ended in failure; not until the third voyage, launched in 1531, would the Peruvian prize be won and the Inca be conquered.

The first European to set foot on the territory of modern-day Ecuador was probably Bartolomé Ruiz de Estrada, the pilot for Pizarro on his second voyage, who pushed southward while Pizarro explored the Colombian coast and Almargo returned to Panama for supplies. Pizarro himself landed on the Ecuadorian coast later during his exploratory voyage and traveled as far as Tumbes in the extreme north of present-day Peru, in defiance of official orders to return to Panama.

Having thus lost the favor of the king's representatives in Panama, Pizarro was forced to return to the royal court in Spain to petition King Charles I personally for authorization of a third voyage. Flush with the success of Hernán Cortés in Mexico and tantalized by the gold pieces brought by Pizarro from Tumbes and growing fables of great wealth in the South American interior, Charles granted Pizarro authorization and much more: the titles of governor and captain-general of Peru, a generous salary, and extensive territorial concessions. Almargo was granted important, although less generous, titles and privileges; his resentment of this slight would affect relationships for the rest of the conquest. At the time that Charles granted various titles to Pizarro and Almargo, he named de Luque Bishop of Tumbes. Before returning to Panama in 1530, Pizarro recruited for the conquest several immediate family members, including two full brothers named Gonzalo and Juan as well as two half-brothers. The participation of so many of Pizarro's relatives further strained relations between the two partners in conquest.

Pizarro then embarked from Panama with some 180 men while Almargo remained there to gather additional recruits. After thirteen days at sea, Pizarro landed once again on the coast of Ecuador, where he procured some gold, silver, and emeralds, which were dispatched to Panama and put to good use in Almargo's efforts. Although the capture of the Inca stronghold of Tumbes was Pizarro's first objective, he was forced to spend several months in Ecuador, first nursing a rash of ulcers and then fighting the fierce warriors of the island of Puná. By the time the conquerors arrived in Tumbes, it had been destroyed by the Puná warriors and its population dispersed. Just to the south, they founded the first Spanish settlement in Peru, San Miguel de Tangarará. Upon their fateful departure to Cajamarca on September 24, 1532, Pizarro left a lieutenant, Sebastián de Benalcázar, in charge of protecting and developing San Miguel as a Spanish base of operations. Two years later, Benalcázar would lead the conquering forces that moved northward into Ecuador.

Meanwhile, Atahualpa was resting near Cajamarca, in the Sierra of northern Peru, following the defeat and capture of his brother. He had known of the arrival of foreign invaders for several months; it is not clear why he did not order their obliteration before they could penetrate into the heart of the empire. After a march of almost two months, Pizarro arrived in Cajamarca and summoned Atahualpa from the nearby thermal baths known today as the Baños del Inca. Reluctantly, accompanied by several thousands of his best troops, Atahualpa went to Cajamarca's central plaza, where he was met, not by the conquistadors, but by their chaplain, Fray Vicente de Valverde, who called upon the Inca emperor to submit to the representatives of the Spanish crown and the Christian god. Atahualpa replied disparagingly and, upon his throwing a Christian prayer book to the ground in contempt, concealed Spanish soldiers opened fire, killing thousands of Atahualpa's defenders and taking the Inca emperor captive. This slaughter, called "the decisive battle" of the conquest of Peru by historian Hubert Herring, took place on November 16, 1532.

A panic-stricken Atahualpa, fearing that Pizarro might be planning to depose him in favor of his rival brother, summoned Huascar, at this time imprisoned in Cuzco, to Cajamarca, then ordered him to be executed along with hundreds of Huascar's nearest of kin. It served the Spaniards' purposes to allow Atahualpa the freedom, from his cell, to command his forces. Thus continued the rapid annihilation, through a vicious civil war that now overlapped with the Spanish conquest, of the army and leadership of one of the great polities of modern history. Pizarro was not planning to depose Atahualpa, of course, but to execute him. First, however, he had Atahualpa fill his cell, once with gold, then twice with silver (estimated at 4,850 kilograms of gold and 9,700 kilograms of silver) supposedly as ransom for his release. Instead the Spaniards garrotted Atahualpa on August 29, 1533, following a mock trial at which he was convicted of every charge that Pizarro could invent for the occasion. Having deprived the Inca empire of leadership, Pizarro and another conquistador, Hernando de Soto, moved south to Cuzco, the heart of Tawantinsuyu, which they captured in November 1533; they then led their men in an orgy of looting, pillaging, and torture in search of more precious metals.

Benalcázar, Pizarro's lieutenant and fellow Extremaduran, had already departed from San Miguel with 140 foot soldiers and a few horses on his conquering mission to Ecuador. At the foot of Mount Chimborazo, near the modern city of Riobamba, he met and defeated the forces of the great Inca warrior Rumiñahui with the aid of Cañari tribesmen who, happy to throw off the yoke of their Inca rulers, served as guides and allies to the conquering Spaniards. Rumiñahui fell back to Quito, and, while in pursuit of the Inca army, Benalcázar encountered another, quite sizable, conquering party led by Guatemalan Governor Pedro de Alvarado. Bored with administering Central America, Alvarado had set sail for the south without the crown's authorization, landed on the Ecuadorian coast, and marched inland to the Sierra. Pizarro had heard of this competing expedition some time earlier and had sent Almargo north to reinforce Benalcázar. Together, Pizarro's two representatives managed to convince Alvarado, with the help of a handsome amount of gold, to call off his expedition and allow the "legal" conquest to proceed as planned. Most of Alvarado's men joined Benalcázar for the siege of Quito.

Rumiñahui left Quito in flames for the approaching conquistadors. It was mid-1534 and, after the customary orgy of violence, in December the Spanish established the city of San Francisco de Quito on top of the ruins of the secondary Inca capital. Benalcázar was soon off on more conquests in Colombia to the north; it was not until December 1540 that Quito received its first captain-general in the person of Gonzalo Pizarro, the brother of Francisco.

Benalcázar had also founded the city of Guayaquil in 1533, but it had subsequently been retaken by the local Huancavilca tribesmen. Francisco de Orellana, yet another lieutenant of Francisco Pizarro from the Spanish city of Trujillo, put down the native rebellion and in 1537 reestablished this city, which a century later would become one of Spain's principal ports in South America.

Orellana is chiefly remembered, however, for being the first European to travel the length of the Amazon River. This journey, one of the great adventure tales of Spain's conquest of America, began in February 1541, when the lure of spices, particularly cinnamon, led Pizarro's brother Gonzalo to set off from Quito to the eastern jungle with a party that included 210 Spaniards and some 4,000 Indians. Orellana was second in command. After several months of hardship and deprivation during a crossing of the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes that cost the lives of nearly half the party, Gonzalo Pizarro placed Orellana in charge of building a brigantine in the Coca River in present-day Ecuador. Together with fifty-seven Spaniards and several hundred Indians, Orellana sailed downstream in search of food and friendly natives. The explorers never rejoined Pizarro, however, but set out on their own in search of neither food nor spices, but gold. "Having eaten our shoes and saddles boiled with a few herbs," wrote Orellana in a caricature of the ruggedness for which the Extremaduran conquerors were noted, "we set out to reach the Kingdom of Gold." The group reached the mouth of the Amazon, a name given by Orellana because he believed that they had been attacked by the legendary giant female warriors at a point below the Negro River, and sailed northward along the Atlantic coast as far as Venezuela, then back to Spain. The journey completed by the expedition headed by Orellana was not to be repeated for 100 years.

In the same August 1542, as Orellana reached the Atlantic, Gonzalo Pizarro was stumbling back to Quito with the few surviving members of his party. He found Peru in political chaos. Several years earlier, Almargo had entered into open rebellion against Francisco Pizarro and been defeated in battle, tried, and executed in his newly founded capital city of Lima. The resentment among Almargo's followers did not end, however, and in June 1541, Francisco Pizarro had been assassinated by the remnants of Almargo's army. In an attempt to try to control the unruly conquistadors and to end the enslavement of the native population of America, the Spanish crown had promulgated the New Laws in 1542, which in theory though not in practice abolished encomiendas, and two years later it sent its first viceroy to head a newly created colonial administrative system.

Gonzalo, who had little interest in being controlled by anyone, defeated and killed the first viceroy on a battlefield near Quito. After a brief period of glory, however, the younger Pizarro was himself defeated by the forces of a subsequent royal emissary, and in 1548 he was tried and hung for treason. It was the end of the tumultuous era of the conquistadors and the beginning of two and a half centuries of relatively pacific colonial rule.


Spain's colonies in the New World were, legally, the personal patrimony of the king, and he held absolute control over all matters in Ecuador. Colonial administration at all levels was carried out in the name of the monarch. The king's chief agency in Madrid was the Council of the Indies, which devoted most of its energies to formulating legislation designed to regulate virtually every aspect of colonial life. The House of Trade, seated in Seville, was placed in charge of governing commerce between Spain and the colonies. In America, the king's major administrative agents were the viceroyalty, the audiencia (court), and the municipal council (cabildo).

Between 1544 and 1563, Ecuador was an integral part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, having no administrative status independent of Lima. It remained a part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until 1720, when it joined the newly created Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada; within the viceroyalty, however, Ecuador was awarded its own audiencia in 1563, allowing it to deal directly with Madrid on certain matters. The Quito Audiencia, which was both a court of justice and an advisory body to the viceroy, consisted of a president and several judges (oidores). The territory under the jurisdiction of Quito considerably exceeded that of present-day Ecuador, extending southward to the port of Paita in the north of present-day Peru, northward to the port of Buenaventura and the city of Cali in the south of present-day Colombia, and well out into the Amazon River Basin in the east. Quito was also the site of the first (founded in 1547) and most important municipal council within the area comprising modern-day Ecuador. It consisted of several councilmen (regidores) whose extensive responsibilities included the maintenance of public order and the distribution of land in the vicinity of the local community.

The borders of the Audiencia (or kingdom as it was also known) of Quito were poorly defined, and a great deal of its territory remained either unexplored or untamed throughout much of the colonial era. Only in the Sierra, and there only after a series of battles that raged throughout the mid-sixteenth century, was the native population fully subjugated by the Spanish. The jungle lowlands in both the Oriente and the coastal region of Esmeraldas were, in contrast, refuges for an estimated one-quarter of the total native population that remained recalcitrant and unconquered throughout most or all of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Despite Orellana's harrowing journey of discovery, the Oriente remained terra incognita to the Spanish until its settlement by Jesuit missionaries beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, and it continued to be largely inaccessible throughout the remainder of the colonial period.

The coastal lowlands north of Manta were conquered, not by the Spanish, but by blacks from the Guinean coast who, as slaves, were shipwrecked en route from Panama to Peru in 1570. The blacks killed or enslaved the native males and married the females, and within a generation they constituted a population of zambos (mixed black and Indian) that resisted Spanish authority until the end of the century and afterwards managed to retain a great deal of political and cultural independence.

The relative autonomy of this coastal region nearest to Quito enhanced the effect of the Andes in isolating the Ecuadorian Sierra from the rest of the world during most of the nearly three centuries of colonial rule. Behind these barriers a social system was established that was essentially a replica of the Spanish feudal system at the time of the conquest, with the peninsulares (Spanish-born persons residing in the New World) being the ruling, landed elite and the Indians being the subject people who worked the land. Although a few towns, particularly Quito, Riobamba, and Cuenca, grew along with the administrative and Roman Catholic bureaucracies and the local textile industries, colonial Ecuador was essentially a rural society.

The most common form in which the Spanish occupied the land was the encomienda. Settlers were granted land, along with its inhabitants and resources, in return for taking charge of defending the territory, spiritually indoctrinating the native population, and extracting the crown's annual tribute (payable half in gold, half in local products) from the encomienda's Indian population. By the early seventeenth century, there were some 500 encomiendas in Ecuador. Although many consisted of quite sizable haciendas, they were generally much smaller than the estates commonly found elsewhere in South America. A multitude of reforms and regulations did not prevent the encomienda from becoming a system of virtual slavery of the Indians, estimated at about one-half the total Ecuadorian population, who lived on them. In 1589 the president of the audiencia recognized that many Spaniards were accepting grants only to sell them and undertake urban occupations, and he stopped distributing new lands to Spaniards; however, the institution of the encomienda persisted until nearly the end of the colonial period.

Land that was less desirable was never distributed, but rather was left to traditional Indian communities or simply remained open public land. In the late sixteenth century, the estimated one- quarter of the total native population on such public lands was resettled into Indian towns called reducciones in order to facilitate the collection of the Indians' tribute, their conversion to Christianity, and the exploitation of their labor.

Outside the encomienda, Indian labor was most commonly exploited through the mita, modeled after the Inca institution of the same name. All able-bodied "free" Indians were required to devote one year of their labor to some public or private Spanish concern, be it constructing a church, road, or public building, or working in a textile mill. Although mitayos were paid for their labor, the amount was extremely meager, often less than debts accumulated through purchases from their employer, thus requiring the them to continue working, sometimes indefinitely, after their assigned period of service. In this way, the mita system disintegrated into debt peonage. Debts were commonly passed on to ensuing generations, in which cases the mita was, in effect, slavery. Black slaves, in comparison, were extremely expensive and were thus used almost exclusively in the lowland plantation culture along the hot, humid coast, where the Sierra Indians proved unable to adapt. Black slaves numbered some 60,000 by the end of the colonial period.

The best estimates of the size of Ecuador's native population at the time of the conquest range between 750,000 and 1 million. Diseases imported by the Spanish, particularly smallpox and measles, virtually wiped out the indigenous coastal population during the sixteenth century and also decimated the Sierra population, although not as thoroughly as in the Costa or many other areas of Latin America. Despite a succession of deadly earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the native population increased steadily during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries except in the 1690s, when an epidemic of smallpox and diphtheria was reported to have killed one-third of Ecuador's population.

Ecuador's Indians probably owe their relative prosperity during the colonial period to the audiencia's lack of mineral resources. The hardships of working in the silver and mercury mines of Peru cost the lives of millions of Indian mitayos; Ecuador, in contrast, had only small deposits of gold and silver in its southern provinces of Cuenca and Loja, and these deposits were depleted by the end of the sixteenth century. Its serrano economy was based, instead, on agriculture and textiles. Cotton, grown on the eastern slope of the Andes in Quijos Province, and wool, from imported merino sheep that thrived in the high Andean valleys, provided the raw materials for high-quality textiles that were manufactured in hundreds of sweatshops, called obrajes, and exported throughout Latin America. Indian mitayos, who commonly worked from dawn to dusk chained to their looms, provided the labor. As appalling as were the preindustrial working conditions in the obrajes, most historians agree that they were more bearable than those found in the Peruvian mines at the time.

The coastal economy revolved around shipping and trade. Guayaquil, despite being destroyed on several occasions by fire and incessantly plagued by either yellow fever or malaria, was a center of vigorous trade among the colonies, a trade that was technically illegal under the mercantilist philosophy of the contemporary Spanish rulers. The guiding principle of mercantilism in the New World was that the colonies existed to serve the commercial needs of Spain. Since trade among the colonies would not enrich Spain, it was banned. In addition to textiles and other light manufactures from the Sierra, hardwoods and cacao from coastal plantations were exported from the port of Guayaquil to points all over Spanish America, while a wide variety of items were imported, including foods and wines from Peru. Guayaquil also became the largest shipbuilding center on the west coast of South America before the end of the colonial period.

The Ecuadorian economy, like that in the mother country, suffered a severe depression throughout most of the eighteenth century. Textile production dropped an estimated 50 to 75 percent between 1700 and 1800. Ecuador's cities gradually fell into ruins, and by 1790 the elite was reduced to poverty, selling haciendas and jewelry in order to subsist. The Indian population, in contrast, probably experienced an overall improvement in its situation, as the closing of the obrajes commonly led Indians to work under less arduous conditions on either haciendas or traditional communal lands. Ecuador's economic woes were, no doubt, compounded by the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767 by King Charles III. Missions in the Oriente were abandoned, and many of the best schools and the most efficient haciendas and obrajes lost the key personnel that made them outstanding institutions in colonial Ecuador.

The Bourbon kings were best known for their economic and administrative reforms, which, like the expulsion of the Jesuits, were designed to enhance the flagging power of the crown in Spanish America. As a result of those reforms, the Quito Audiencia was transferred in 1720 from the authority of the Peruvian viceroyalty to the newly created Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada, whose capital was in Bogotá. In the process, the Quiteño authorities gained jurisdiction over their own political and military affairs, while the audiencia's southern and eastern boundaries were delineated more specifically and retracted. A royal decree (cédula) in 1802 further shrank the area of the audiencia by transferring the provinces of Quijos and Mainas in the Oriente to Peru. Another decree by Charles IV in 1803 transferred the port of Guayaquil to Peru, but resistance by port citizens led to its being returned to the jurisdiction of Quito in 1819.

Between 1736 and 1745, a French scientific mission with some of the best minds in Europe resided in Quito and contributed to the development of ideas in Ecuador. While carrying out their scientific mission--measuring the earth's circumference at the equator--the members of the mission disseminated the message of the Enlightenment, which stressed nationalism, individualism, and a questioning of authority and tradition. Works of Voltaire, Jean- Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Paine, introducing such revolutionary concepts as equality and freedom, managed to elude the censors of both the Inquisition and a languishing political authority, and penetrated Ecuador's historical cultural isolation. The most famous Ecuadorian intellectual of the age, Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo, was a physician and a writer who advocated emancipation from Spain and a republican, democratic system of government. Honored today as the precursor of Ecuadorian independence, Espejo was imprisoned for his ideas and died in jail in 1795.

The coming of independence was also foreshadowed by the numerous civil disturbances that rocked the Ecuadorian Sierra from the 1760s until the end of the colonial era. In 1765 the Quiteño white and mestizo or cholo (a person of mixed white and Indian ancestry) population revolted against reforms in the colonial tax system. Potentially more serious was a subsequent series of Indian rebellions in Latacunga and Riobamba. Although clearly of a political nature, calling for the overthrow of the Spanish regime and the expulsion of all the whites from the land in addition to putting an end to the odious mita system, these uprisings never led to such large-scale insurrections as occurred in Peru at the same time. Ironically, the passing of the colonial era, according to most historians, occasioned a worsening of conditions for the indigenous population.


The struggle for independence in the Quito Audiencia was part of a movement throughout Spanish America led by criollos (persons of pure Spanish descent born in the New World). The criollos resentment of the privileges enjoyed by the peninsulares was the fuel of revolution against colonial rule. The spark was Napoleon's invasion of Spain, after which he deposed King Ferdinand VII and, in July 1808, placed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne.

Shortly afterward, Spanish citizens, unhappy at the usurpation of the throne by the French, began organizing local juntas loyal to Ferdinand. A group of Quito's leading citizens followed suit, and on August 10, 1809, they seized power from the local representatives of Joseph Bonaparte in the name of Ferdinand. Thus, this early revolt against colonial rule (one of the first in Spanish America) was, paradoxically, an expression of loyalty to the Spanish king.

It quickly became apparent that Quito's criollo rebels lacked the anticipated popular support for their cause. As loyalist troops approached Quito, therefore, they peacefully turned power back to the crown authorities. Despite assurances against reprisals, the returning Spanish authorities (Bonaparte's men) proved to be merciless with the rebels and, in the process of ferreting out participants in the Quito revolt, jailed and abused many innocent citizens. They actions, in turn, bred popular resentment among Quiteños, who, after several days of street fighting in August 1810, won an agreement to be governed by a junta to be dominated by criollos, although with the president of the Audiencia of Quito acting as its figurehead leader.

In spite of widespread opposition within the rest of the Quito Audiencia, the junta called for a congress in December 1811 in which it declared the entire area of the audiencia to be independent. Two months later, the junta approved a constitution for the state of Quito that provided for democratic governing institutions but also granted recognition to the authority of Ferdinand should he return to the Spanish throne. Shortly thereafter, the junta elected to launch a military offensive against the Spanish, but the poorly trained and badly equipped troops were no match for those of the viceroy of Peru, which finally crushed the Quiteño rebellion in December 1812.

The second chapter in Ecuador's struggle for emancipation from Spanish colonial rule began in Guayaquil, where independence was proclaimed in October 1820 by a local patriotic junta under the leadership of the poet José Joaquín Olmedo. By this time, the forces of independence had grown continental in scope and were organized into two principal armies, one under the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar Palacios in the north and the other under the Argentine José de San Martín in the south. Unlike the hapless Quito junta, the Guayaquil patriots were able to appeal to foreign allies, Argentina and Venezuela, each of whom soon responded by sending sizable contingents to Ecuador. Antonio José de Sucre Alcalá, the brilliant young lieutenant of Bolívar who arrived in Guayaquil in May 1821, was to become the key figure in the ensuing military struggle against the royalist forces.

After a number of initial successes, Sucre's army was defeated at Ambato in the central Sierra and he appealed for assistance from San Martín, whose army was by now in Peru. With the arrival from the south of 1,400 fresh soldiers under the command of Andrés de Santa Cruz Calahumana, the fortunes of the patriotic army were again reversed. A string of victories culminated in the decisive Battle of Pichincha, on the slopes of the volcano of that name on the western outskirts of Quito, on May 24, 1822. A few hours after the victory by the patriots, the last president of the Audiencia of Quito signed a formal capitulation of his forces before Marshal Sucre. Ecuador was at last free of Spanish rule.

Two months later Bolívar, the liberator of northern South America, entered Quito to a hero's welcome. Later that July, he met San Martín in Guayaquil and convinced the Argentine general, who wanted the port to return to Peruvian jurisdiction, and the local criollo elite in both major cities of the advantage of having the former Quito Audiencia join with the liberated lands to the north. As a result, Ecuador became the District of the South within the Confederation of Gran Colombia, which also included present-day Venezuela and Colombia and had Bogotá as its capital. This status was maintained for eight tumultuous years.

They were years in which warfare dominated the affairs of Ecuador. First, the country found itself on the front lines of Bolívar's war to liberate Peru from Spanish rule between 1822 and 1825; afterward, in 1828 and 1829, Ecuador was in the middle of an armed struggle between Peru and Gran Colombia over the location of their common border. After a campaign that included the near destruction of Guayaquil, the forces of Gran Colombia, under the leadership of Sucre and Venezuelan General Juan José Flores, proved victorious. The Treaty of 1829 fixed the border on the line that had divided the Quito audiencia and the Viceroyalty of Peru before independence.

The population of Ecuador was divided during these years among three segments: those favoring the status quo, those supporting union with Peru, and those advocating autonomous independence for the former audiencia. The latter group was to prevail following Venezuela's withdrawal from the confederation during an 1830 constitutional congress that had been called in Bogotá in a futile effort to combat growing separatist tendencies throughout Gran Colombia. In May of that year, a group of Quito notables met to dissolve the union with Gran Colombia, and in August, a constituent assembly drew up a constitution for the State of Ecuador, so named for its geographic proximity to the equator, and placed General Flores in charge of political and military affairs. He remained the dominant political figure during Ecuador's first fifteen years of independence.


Before the year 1830 drew to a close, both Marshal Sucre and Simón Bolívar would be dead; the former, murdered (on orders from a jealous General Flores, according to some historians), and the latter, from tuberculosis. Heartbroken at the dissolution of Gran Colombia, Bolívar is quoted as saying shortly before his death, "America is ungovernable. Those who have served the revolution have plowed the sea." These words would seem prophetic during the chaotic first thirty years in the life of the Republic of Ecuador.

Initial Confusion, 1830-60

Independence did not occasion a revolutionary liberation of the masses of Ecuadorian peasants. On the contrary, as bad as the peasants' situation was, it probably worsened with the loss of the Spanish royal officials who had protected the indigenous population against the abuses of the local criollos. This criollo elite, which had spearheaded the struggle for independence, was to be its principal beneficiary. The early battle to define the political parameters of the new state was fought, to a great extent, among the various sectors--Ecuadorians and foreigners, military personnel and civilians--of this elite.

Flores was of the foreign military variety. Born in Venezuela, he had fought in the wars for independence with Bolívar, who had appointed him governor of Ecuador during its association with Gran Colombia. Although of humble origins with little formal education, Flores married into the Quiteño elite, gaining acceptance, initially at least, within the local criollo upper class. As a leader, however, he appeared primarily interested in maintaining his power. Military expenditures, from the independence wars and from an unsuccessful campaign to wrest Cauca Province from Colombia in 1832, kept the state treasury empty while other matters were left unattended.

In 1833 four intellectuals who had begun publishing El Quiteño Libre to denounce the "pillaging of the national treasury by foreigners" were killed by the authorities at a time when Flores was absent from Quito. Although not directly responsible for the killings, Flores inevitably became associated with them, and criticism of his regime grew. In 1834 opponents staged a rebellion in an effort to place José Vicente Rocafuerte y Rodríguez de Bejarano, a member of the Guayaquil aristocracy who had recently returned from fourteen years abroad, into the presidency. The rebels effort failed; Flores then coopted his opponent and sponsored Rocafuerte as a presidential candidate. For four years following this Machiavellian political move--in effect the nation's first coup d'état--Flores continued to wield considerable power from behind the scenes as commander of the military.

President Rocafuerte's most lasting contribution was to begin development of a public school system. Although he had previously condemned Flores's violations of civil liberties, Rocafuerte argued that "the backwardness of Ecuador makes enlightened despotism necessary." At the end of his term in 1839, Rocafuerte returned to his native Guayaquil as provincial governor, while in Quito Flores was again inaugurated into the presidency. After four years in office, Flores summoned a constitutional convention that wrote a new constitution, dubbed "the Charter of Slavery" by his opponents, and elected him to a new eight-year term of office.

After 1843 the opposition to Flores often manifested itself in unpleasant ways: in reference to the dark skin of Flores and his fellow Venezuelan and Colombian soldiers, Rocafuerte (by now exiled in Lima) wrote that "the white oppressors of the peninsula were less oppressive than the Negro vandals who have replaced them." A young student named Gabriel García Moreno--later to become the most infamous of all of Ecuador's nineteenth century dictators--tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Flores. Discontent had become nationwide by 1845, when an insurrection in Guayaquil forced Flores from the country. Because their movement triumphed in March (marzo), the anti-Flores coalition members became known as marcistas. They were an extremely heterogeneous lot that included liberal intellectuals, conservative clergymen, and representatives from Guayaquil's successful business community.

The next fifteen years constituted one of the most turbulent periods in Ecuador's century and a half as a nation. The marcistas fought among themselves almost ceaselessly and also had to struggle against Flores's repeated attempts from exile to overthrow the government. The first marcista president was a businessman, Vicente Ramón Roca, who served a full four-year term of office. The most significant figure of the era, however, was General José María Urbina, who first came to power in 1851 through a coup d'état, remained in the presidency until 1856, and then continued to dominate the political scene until 1860. During this decade and the one that followed, Urbina and his archrival, García Moreno, would define the dichotomy--between Liberals from Guayaquil and Conservatives from Quito--that remained the major sphere of political struggle in Ecuador in the 1980s.

Liberalism under Urbina took on anticlerical, ethnic, and regional dimensions. In 1852 he accused a group of Jesuit priests-- admitted by his predecessor, Diego Noboa, only a year earlier--of political meddling and expelled them. Urbina freed the nation's slaves exactly one week after his coup of 1851, and six years later, his successor and life-long friend, General Francisco Robles, finally put an end to three centuries of required annual payments of tribute by the Indian population. Henceforth, liberalism associated itself with bettering the position of Ecuador's non-white population. Urbina's and Robles's favoring of the Guayaquil business classes over the Quito landowners reinforced the regional aspect of the political dichotomy.

Opposition against Robles intensified after his signing, in 1857, of an unpopular contract aimed at alleviating the burdensome foreign debt. By 1859--known by Ecuadorian historians as the Terrible Year--the nation was on the brink of anarchy. Local caudillos had declared several regions autonomous of the central government. One of these caudillos, Guayaquil's Guillermo Franco, signed the Treaty of Mapasingue ceding the southern provinces of Ecuador to an occupying Peruvian army led by General Ramón Castilla. This action was outrageous enough to unite some previously disparate elements. García Moreno, putting aside both his project to place Ecuador under a French protectorate and his differences with General Flores, got together with the former dictator to put down the various local rebellions and force out the Peruvians. This effort opened the last chapter of Flores's long career and marked the entrance to power of García Moreno.

Ecuador - The Era of Conservatism, 1860-95

García Moreno is the father of Ecuadorian conservatism and no doubt the most controversial figure in the nation's history, condemned by Liberal historians as Ecuador's worst tyrant but exalted by Conservatives as the nation's greatest nation-builder. In the end, both appraisals may be accurate; the man who possibly saved Ecuador from disintegration in 1859 and then ruled the nation with an iron fist for the subsequent decade and a half was, in fact, an extremely complicated personality. Born and raised under modest circumstances in Guayaquil, he studied in Quito, where he married into the local aristocracy, then traveled to Europe in the aftermath of the 1848 revolutionary uprisings and studied under the eminent Catholic theologians of the day.

García Moreno's religious education had a profound impact on the future president. In the words of historian Frederick B. Pike:

His personal experiences seem to have influenced his attitudes toward governing his country. In his own case, liberalism and religious indifference had gone hand-in- hand with personal debauchery and lack of self-control, while religious fervor had been intertwined with a life of rigorous self-control and spartan discipline. After coming to the presidency, García Moreno set out to rekindle religious fervor among Ecuadorians in the expectation that the entire country could be made to undergo a transformation paralleling his own.
President García Moreno saw Roman Catholicism as the ingredient of Ecuadorian culture that, through its emphasis on order, hierarchy, and discipline, could unite the nation and save it from the multiple crises and disorder of the 1850s. Catholicism thus held a prominent position in each of the two new constitutions that he introduced: the charter of 1861 named Catholicism as the exclusive religion, and its replacement in 1869, in addition to providing for a six-year presidential term and unlimited reelection, made citizenship dependent on one's adherence to the Roman Catholic religion. In 1863 García Moreno promulgated Ecuador's first concordat with the Vatican, bestowing vast powers on the Ecuadorian Roman Catholic Church, especially with respect to education. A decade later, the dictator's puppet congress dedicated the republic to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Despite such proclerical measures that have led many historians to dub his regime a theocracy, the local clergy believed García Moreno to be fanatical and criticized him for it. The president, in turn, replaced many local clergymen with foreign priests in an effort to revitalize the Roman Catholic Church in Ecuador, which he considered degenerate and dissolute.

The highly anticlerical Liberals were, of course, livid. Urbina organized an invasion in 1864, which was defeated with the help, once again, of General Flores. García Moreno was ruthless in his repression of the captured rebels, as he was commonly with less formidable opponents as well. Nor did he hesitate to manipulate the presidential succession. Finding his hand-picked successor deficient after two years in office, in 1867 García Moreno presided over the installation of a second puppet, whom he also overthrew in 1869, when it appeared that the Liberals might win scheduled elections. In 1869 García Moreno also formally established the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador--PC).

Shortly after the onset of his third presidential term in 1875, García Moreno was hacked to death with a machete on the steps of the presidential palace. The exact motives of the assassin, a Colombian, remain unknown, but the dictator's most outstanding critic, the liberal journalist Juan Montalvo, exclaimed, "My pen killed him!"

Although maligned for his highly proclerical and dictatorial ways, García Moreno made a number of vital contributions to the development of the nation. Perhaps the most important advances were in education. The generation of many new schools at all levels, from primary to the polytechnical training school in Quito, elicited universal praise, despite the fact that the Jesuits were largely responsible for these accomplishments. Transportation links with Quito were also vastly improved with the building of roads to Esmeraldas and to Babahoyo, near Guayaquil, as well as the first portion of the railroad linking Quito with Riobamba and Guayaquil. These public works not only promoted national unity but also helped Quito begin a long-delayed effort to overcome the geographic barriers that had historically caused its isolation, an isolation that had hindered the nation's integration into the world economy.

Between 1852 and 1890, Ecuador's exports grew in value from slightly more than US$1 million to nearly US$10 million. Production of cacao, the most important export product in the late nineteenth century, grew from 6.5 million kilograms to 18 million kilograms during the same period. The agricultural export interests, centered in the coastal region near Guayaquil, became closely associated with the Liberals, whose political power also grew steadily during the interval. After the death of García Moreno, it took the Liberals twenty years to consolidate their strength sufficiently to assume control of the government in Quito.

Five different presidents governed during the two decades of transition between Conservative and Liberal rule. The first, Antonio Borrero, tried valiantly to return the nation to the rule of law, but, after only ten months in office, he was overthrown by the only military dictator of the period, Ignacio de Veintemilla. Although he came to power with the help of the old Liberal General Urbina, Veintemilla later evolved into a populist military dictator rather than a politician with any party or ideological affiliation. He was extremely popular with his troops and able to woo the masses with employment on public works programs and large-scale public festivals and dances during holiday periods. In office until 1883, Veintemilla enjoyed a period of relative prosperity resulting primarily from increased maritime activity while Peru, Bolivia, and Chile were mired in the War of the Pacific.

José María Plácido Caamaño, a Conservative, then served as president until 1888, and he remained a powerful figure during the administrations of the duly elected Progressive Party (Partido Progresista) presidents who followed him, Antonio Flores Jijón and Luis Cordero Crespo. Flores, who was the son of President Juan José Flores, intended progressivism to represent a compromise position between liberalism and conservatism. The Progressive program called for support for the Roman Catholic Church, rule by law, and an end to dictatorship and military rule. Although neither Caamaño, Flores, nor Cordero was able to curtail the growing animosity between Conservatives and Liberals, their periods in office were, for the most part, characterized by relative political stability and prosperity. The latter resulted more from favorable international circumstances for cacao exports than from astute government policy making.

In 1895, midway through his term in office, Cordero fell victim to scandal and charges of "selling the flag" over an agreement made with Chile. Cordero allowed the warship Esmeralda, which Chile was selling to Japan, to fly the Ecuadorian flag briefly in order to protect Chile's neutrality in the conflict between Japan and China. Bribes were apparently involved and, tremendously weakened by the scandal and also challenged by the outbreak of several military rebellions, the president resigned in April. In June the Liberals seized power in Guayaquil in the name of their most popular caudillo, General José Eloy Alfaro Delgado. Three months later, "the old battler" (a name Alfaro had earned during his armed struggle against García Moreno) returned after a decade of exile in Central America and marched triumphantly into Quito. It was the end of Ecuador's brief experiment with progressivism and the beginning of three stormy decades of rule by the Radical Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Radical--PLR), commonly referred to as the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal).

Ecuador - The Rule of the Liberals, 1895-1925

Eloy Alfaro is the outstanding standard-bearer for Ecuador's Liberals, much as García Moreno is for the Conservatives. Some Marxist groups have also looked to Alfaro; although his political program was in no way socialist, it did prove to be revolutionary in the extent to which it stripped the Roman Catholic Church of the power and privileges previously granted to it by García Moreno. Catholic officials and their Conservative allies did not give up without a fight, however. During the first year of Alfaro's presidency, Ecuador was ravaged by a bloody civil war in which clergymen commonly incited the faithful masses to rise in rebellion against the "atheistic alfaristas" and were, just as commonly, themselves victims of alfarista repression. The foreign-born Bishops Pedro Schumacher of Portoviejo and Arsenio Andrade of Riobamba led the early resistance to Alfaro. A fullfledged bloodbath may well have been averted only through the magnanimous efforts of the outstanding historian and Archbishop Federico González Suárez, who urged the clergy to abandon the pursuit of politics.

This final ecclesiastical struggle for control of Ecuador was in vain, however. By the end of the Liberals' rule in 1925, Roman Catholicism was no longer the constitutionally mandated state religion, official clerical censorship of reading material had been suppressed, many powerful foreign clergy had been expelled, education had been secularized, civil marriage as well as divorce had been instituted, the concordat with the Vatican had been broken, most of the church's rural properties had been seized by the state, and the republic was no longer dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church in Ecuador would never again hold prerogatives as extensive as those it enjoyed during the late nineteenth century.

The other accomplishment for which the three decades of PLR rule are remembered is the completion, in 1908, of the GuayaquilQuito railroad. At the time, however, Alfaro was condemned by his critics for "delivering the republic to the Yankees" through a contract signed with North American entrepreneurs to complete the project begun by García Moreno. Although the criticism did not halt Alfaro on this project, a similar nationalistic outcry did force him to end negotiations with the United States, which wanted to protect the soon-to-be-completed Panama Canal, over military base rights in Ecuador's Galápagos Islands. Alfaro's affinity for the United States was also evident in 1910, when war between Peru and Ecuador over their perennial boundary dispute was narrowly averted through the mediation of the United States, together with Brazil and Argentina.

The Liberals can be credited with few further accomplishments of major proportions. The system of debt peonage that lingered in the Sierra came under government regulations, albeit weak ones, and imprisonment for debts was finally outlawed in 1918. These and other limited social benefits gained by the Indians and the mixedblood montuvio (coastal mestizo) working class were overshadowed by the ruinous economic decline world wide and the severe repression of the nascent labor movement at the hands of the Liberals during the early 1920s. Furthermore, Liberal rule did little to foster the development of stable democracy. On the contrary, the first half of the period saw even more illegal seizures of power and military-led governments than in previous decades.

A major cause of the instability of the period was the lack of unity within the PLR itself. Alfaro and a second military strongman, General Leónidas Plaza Gutiérrez, maintained a bitter rivalry over party leadership for almost two decades. Following Alfaro's first period in the presidency, Plaza was elected to a constitutional term of office that lasted from 1901 until 1905. In 1906, shortly after a close associate of Plaza had been elected to succeed him, however, Alfaro launched a coup d'état and returned to the presidency. Alfaro, in turn, was overthrown in 1911 after refusing to hand power over to his own hand-picked successor, Emilio Estrada. Four months later, Estrada's death from a heart attack precipitated a brief civil war that climaxed the rivalry between Alfaro and Plaza. Alfaro returned from his exile in Panama to lead the Guayaquil garrison in its challenge to the Quito-based interim government, which was under the military authority of General Plaza. The rebellion was quickly defeated, however; Alfaro was captured and transported to Quito via the same railroad that he had done so much to complete. Once in the capital, Alfaro was publicly and unceremoniously murdered, along with several of his comrades, by a government-instigated mob.

Shortly thereafter, Plaza was inaugurated into his second presidential term in office. It was the first of four consecutive constitutional changes of government: following Plaza (1912-16) came Alfredo Baquerizo Moreno (1916-20), then José Luis Tamayo (1920-24), and Gonzalo S. Córdova (1924-25). Real power during this second half of the period of Liberal rule was held, not by the government, but by a plutocracy of coastal agricultural and banking interests, popularly known as la argolla (the ring), whose linchpin was the Commercial and Agricultural Bank of Guayaquil led by Francisco Urbina Jado. This bank gained influence by loaning vast quantities of money to the free-spending government as well as to private individuals. According to Ecuadorian historian Oscar Efrén Reyes, the bank was influential "to the point that candidates for president and his ministers, senators, and deputies had to have the prior approval of the bank." Many of the private loans were to members of the Association of Agriculturists of Ecuador, an organization that also received government funds intended to promote an international cartel of cacao growers, but which instead were used to line members' pockets.

All parties involved in la argolla, from the government officials to the bankers and the growers, were professed militants of the Liberal cause. It was not only the political fortunes of the party that fell victim to their financial activities, however, but also the national economy, which experienced runaway inflation as a result of the printing of money by the private banks. The severe economic problems during the final years of Liberal rule were also partially caused by factors beyond the control of the politicians. A fungal disease that ravaged Ecuador's cacao trees and the growth of competition from British colonies in Africa abruptly ended conditions that had favored Ecuador's exportation of cacao for over a century. What was left of the nation's cacao industry fell victim to the sharp decline in world demand during the Great Depression.

Ecuador's economic crisis of the early 1920s was especially devastating to the working class and the poor. With real wages, for those lucky enough to have jobs, eaten away by inflation, workers responded with a general strike in Guayaquil in 1922 and a peasant rebellion in the central Sierra the following year. Both actions were aimed at improving wages and working conditions; both were put down only after massacres of major proportions.

President Córdova, closely tied to la argolla, had come to office in a fraudulent election. Popular unrest, together with the ongoing economic crisis and a sickly president, laid the background for a bloodless coup d'état in July 1925. Unlike all previous forays by the military into Ecuadorian politics, the coup of 1925 was made in the name of a collective grouping rather than a particular caudillo. The members of the League of Young Officers who overthrew Córdoba came to power with an agenda, which included a wide variety of social reforms, the replacement of the increasingly sterile Liberal-Conservative debate, and the end of the rule of the Liberals, who had become decadent after three decades in power.

Ecuador - Reform, Chaos, and Debacle, 1925-44

The reformist officers initially named a governing junta consisting of prominent opponents of the Liberal plutocracy, but neither it nor a succeeding junta was able to consolidate the power necessary to govern effectively. In 1926 they named as provisional president Isidro Ayora, a dedicated reformer who, although married into one of the wealthiest coastal families, possessed a social conscience and the vision to see that reform would help preserve the status of the upper classes. Ayora quickly assumed dictatorial powers, with which he set out to institute reforms that were partly of his own making and partly the making of the League of Young Officers.

An advisory mission from Princeton University, headed by Edwin W. Kemmerer, was invited to propose measures to reorganize Ecuador's fiscal and monetary structures. Its major accomplishment was the creation of the Central Bank of Ecuador (Banco Central), which replaced the private banks' authority in the issuing of currency; in addition, the Kemmerer mission also reorganized the state budgeting and customs agencies. The appropriation of these functions, which were previously under the control of la argolla, brought a revenue windfall to the government during the next half-decade. In addition to building state fiscal and social agencies, the funds were used to initiate a number of programs, including pensions for state workers, that enhanced the security of the middle and lower economic sectors of the population. A range of social legislation--quite progressive for its day--intended to protect the working class from unscrupulous employers and to improve working conditions emerged from the enactment of the 1929 constitution.

The same constitution, Ecuador's thirteenth in just under a century as a republic, also provided for a powerful legislative body with authority to censure presidential ministers. This diminution of executive power, the appearance of a wide variety (socialist, communist, and populist) of new groupings in political competition with the traditional parties and with the military, and the devastating effects of the Great Depression combined to make Ecuador's political record especially unstable during subsequent years. Ayora was the first of fourteen chief executives during the 1930s.

World demand for cacao and other Ecuadorian export crops dropped precipitously in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street crash: export crop value fell from US$15 million in 1928 to US$7 million in 1931 and US$5 million in 1932, causing widespread unemployment and misery. Few objections were voiced in 1931 when Ayora was the victim of a military coup. Neptalí Bonifaz Ascázubi was then elected with the help of a quasi-fascist grouping of the serrano lower classes called the Consolidation of National Workers (Compactación Obrera Nacional). In August 1932, after various Liberal and leftist elements in Congress blocked Bonifaz's assumption of power, the Compactación fought a bloody four-day civil war against other paramilitary forces amassed by opponents of the president-elect. The latter were victorious, largely because the great majority of the government military forces remained in their barracks rather than defend Bonifaz.

Another election two months later brought victory for the Liberal candidate, Juan de Dios Martínez Mera, but soon accusations arose that the election had been fraudulent. The congressional opposition censured virtually every minister as soon as he was named and also encouraged the Compactación to lead demonstrations against the president in the streets of Quito. The campaign against Martínez was led by the charismatic president of the Chamber of Deputies, José María Velasco Ibarra, who at the time professed a "total lack of presidential ambitions." In September 1934, less than a year after Martínez was forced to resign, Velasco assumed the presidency after having won popular elections by an overwhelming margin.

The first of Velasco's five periods as president lasted only eleven months. He was overthrown by the military after attempting to assume dictatorial powers by dissolving Congress and jailing his congressional opponents. Shortly thereafter, the military placed Federico Páez in the presidential palace. An engineer and former senator, Páez ruled precariously for two years, first with the political support of the socialist left and then with that of the right, and he tried to advance the reforms undertaken by Ayora a decade earlier. Ongoing fiscal difficulties severely limited Páez's efforts, however, and in September 1937 he was overthrown by his minister of national defense, General Alberto Enríquez Gallo. Although he ruled for less than a year, Enríquez achieved note as a social reformer by his promulgation of the Labor Code of 1938.

Enríquez is also remembered for having initiated a protracted confrontation with the United States-based South American Development Company over the terms of its Ecuadorian concession and the wages it paid its Ecuadorian employees. The company refused to comply with Enríquez's entreaty that more of the profits from its mining operations stay in Ecuador, and it won the support of the United States Department of State. The Ecuadorian government continued its demands despite United States pressure. In 1940 the United States, hoping to obtain Ecuadorian cooperation in its anticipated war effort, ended its support for the mining firm. Ecuadorian President Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Río, in turn, proved generous in his cooperation with the Allies, allowing the United States to build a naval base on the Galápagos Islands and an air base at Salinas on the Ecuadorian mainland.

In addition to being a genuine friend and admirer of the United States, Arroyo del Río was the leader of the PLR and a representative of the Guayaquil-based "plutocracy." He came to power constitutionally in November 1939 upon the death of his predecessor, but he continued in office in January 1940 through fraudulent elections that were universally believed to have been won by Velasco, and continued in power later, through repression. Despite such antipopular methods of ruling, he managed to remain in office for almost four years, thanks to economic support by the United States and the recuperation of Ecuador's export markets as worldwide economic depression gave way to recovery during World War II.

Arroyo del Río's undoing was the disastrous 1941 war with Peru. Although the prior sequence of events--the breakdown of talks aimed at resolving the boundary issues in 1938, followed by repeated border skirmishes--had given ample warning of a possible outbreak of large-scale hostilities, Ecuador was unprepared to meet the July 5 Peruvian invasion. Furthermore, the president's fear of being left unprotected from his opponents led him to keep the nation's best fighting forces in Quito while Peruvian troops continuously attacked the nation's southern and eastern provinces until a ceasefire went into effect on July 31.

Peru's occupation ended only after January 1942, when the two nations signed the Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Boundaries while attending the Third Conference of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics in Rio de Janeiro. Under the terms of the Rio Protocol, the informal name of the agreement, Ecuador renounced its claim to some 200,000 square kilometers of territory. Shortly afterward, the Rio Protocol was ratified by a bare plurality of the Ecuadorian legislature.

The Ecuadorian government quickly regretted having become a party to the Rio Protocol. The protocol became the focus of a surge of Ecuadorian national pride and concomitant opposition to Arroyo in a new coalition--the Democratic Alliance. The coalition brought together a wide array of Ecuadorian politicians dedicated to replacing the "president who had been unable to defend the national honor." Arroyo's rejoinder that he would remain in office the full four years, "neither one day more nor one day less," and his being prominently hailed in Washington as "the Apostle of PanAmericanism " only increased his political isolation. A persistent inflation that whittled away at the purchasing power of salaried workers was a further cause of popular resentment against Arroyo.

In May 1944, following an uprising in Guayaquil that pitted the military and civilian supporters of Velasco against Arroyo's police, the president finally resigned. The military handed power to the Democratic Alliance, which in turn named Velasco, whose electoral candidacy had recently been vetoed by Arroyo, as the popularly acclaimed president of the republic. The populist master returned triumphantly from exile in Colombia, greeted by throngs of enthusiasts during a three-day journey to Quito, to assume the presidency for the second time.

Ecuador - THE POSTWAR ERA, 1944-84

The Quiteño multitudes standing in the pouring rain on May 31, 1944, to hear Velasco promise a "national resurrection," with social justice and due punishment for the "corrupt Liberal oligarchy" that had been responsible for "staining the national honor," believed that they were witnessing the birth of a popular revolution. Arroyo partisans were promptly jailed or sent into exile, while Velasco verbally baited the business community and the rest of the political right. The leftist elements within Velasco's Democratic Alliance, which dominated the constituent assembly that was convened to write a new constitution, were nonetheless destined to be disappointed.

In May 1945, after a year of growing hostility between the president and the assembly, which was vainly awaiting deeds to substantiate Velasco's rhetorical advocacy of social justice, the mercurial chief executive condemned and then repudiated the newly completed constitution. After dismissing the assembly, Velasco held elections for a new assembly, which in 1946 drafted a far more conservative constitution that met with the president's approval. For this brief period, Conservatives replaced the left as Velasco's base of support.

Rather than attending to the nation's economic problems, Velasco aggravated them by financing the dubious schemes of his associates. Inflation continued unabated, as did its negative impact on the national standard of living, and by 1947 foreignexchange reserves had fallen to dangerously low levels. In August, when Velasco was ousted by his minister of defense, nobody rose to defend the man who, only three years earlier, had been hailed as the nation's savior. During the following year, three different men briefly held executive power before Galo Plaza Lasso, running under a coalition of independent Liberals and socialists, narrowly defeated his Conservative opponent in presidential elections. His inauguration in September 1948 initiated what was to become the longest period of constitutional rule since the 1912-24 heyday of the Liberal plutocracy.

Ecuador - Constitutional Rule, 1948-60

Galo Plaza differed from previous Ecuadorian presidents. The son of former President Plaza Gutiérrez, he had been born in the United States, where he also attended several universities. His ties to the United States grew even closer as a result of serving there as ambassador under President Arroyo del Río. These links, as Pike points out, "rendered him vulnerable to charges by Velasco Ibarra and other demagogic opponents of being the lackey of U.S. imperialism." Galo Plaza was not a professional politician, but a gentleman farmer with a sizable cattle ranch near Quito, where he customarily spent weekends throughout his four years as president.

Galo Plaza brought a developmentalist and technocratic emphasis to Ecuadorian government. He invited a wide variety of foreign experts in economic development and in governmental administration to recommend and catalog reforms in both areas. In large part because of a lack of political will within either the executive or the legislature, however, virtually none of the recommended reforms was enacted. Nevertheless, the economy experienced a marked improvement, with inflation finally slowing down and both government budget and foreign currency accounts balancing for the first time in many years. This achievement was even more remarkable in light of the series of major earthquakes, landslides, and floods suffered by Ecuador in 1949 and 1950.

No doubt Galo Plaza's most important contribution to Ecuadorian political culture was his commitment to the principles and practices of democracy. Galo Plaza endorsed such democratic guarantees as freedom of the press and the freedom of opponents to voice their opinions, to assemble for political purposes without fear of being jailed or worse, and to be elected to the legislature without fear of being defrauded or arbitrarily dismissed. Galo Plaza was able to create a mystique around the idea of his completing his term in office, something no president had accomplished since 1924, and this mystique no doubt helped him achieve his goal.

As Galo Plaza readily admitted, however, his greatest asset, both politically and economically, was the onset of the nation's banana boom, as diseases plaguing plantations in Central America turned Ecuador into an alternative supplier to the huge United States market. Ecuador's banana exports grew from US$2 million to US$20 million between 1948 and 1952. During these years, Ecuador also benefited from sizable price increases--generated by the Korean War--for its commodity exports.

A proof of the politically stabilizing effect of the banana boom of the 1950s is that even Velasco, who in 1952 was elected president for the third time, managed to serve out a full four-year term. He continued to spend as before--building bridges, roads, and schools at will and rewarding his political supporters (including, this time, the military) with jobs, salary increases, and weapons-- but, in contrast to his previous times in office, there were now sufficient funds to pay for everything.

Always the master populist, Velasco (who by now liked to be known as "the National Personification") again came to power with the support of the common man, this time through the vehicle of the Guayaquil-based Concentration of Popular Forces (Concentración de Fuerzas Populares--CFP). Once in office, however, he arrested and deported the CFP boss, Carlos Guevara Moreno, together with several other party leaders. Guevara Moreno reassumed control of the CFP in 1955 following a three-year exile. Velasco's subsequent party support during the 1950s came from the Conservatives, the conservative Social Christian Movement (Movimiento Social Cristiano--MSC), and the highly nationalistic, anticommunist, quasi-fascist Ecuadorian Nationalist Revolutionary Action (Acción Revolucionaria Nacionalista Ecuatoriana--ARNE).

On repeated occasions, members of ARNE acted as thugs and shock troops, attacking students, labor unions, and the press. In 1955 Velasco also chose to pick a fight with the United States. In the opening round of what would later become known as the "tuna war," Ecuadorian officials seized two fishing boats carrying the United States flag, charging them with fishing inside the 200-nauticalmile limit claimed by Ecuador as territorial seas under its sovereignty.

In 1956 Camilo Ponce Enríquez, the MSC founder who had served in Velasco's cabinet, assumed the presidency after a close election replete with allegations of fraud. Although late support from Velasco proved crucial to Ponce's victory, shortly afterward "the National Personification" became the principal opponent of the new chief executive. In a display of statesmanship and political acumen, Ponce co-opted the Liberal opposition by including it, along with Conservatives and the MSC, in his cabinet.

Although Ponce did not enact the Social Christian reforms of which he spoke vaguely during the campaign, the relative political calm that prevailed during his four years in office was, in itself, an accomplishment given the worsening economic situation. Ponce's term saw the end of the banana boom that had sustained more than a decade of constitutional rule. Falling export prices led to rising unemployment and a social malaise that briefly erupted into riots in 1959. By the following year, the effects of the discontent were ready to be exploited by the populist appeal of the irrepressible Velasco, who was elected with his widest margin of victory ever. Velasco's fourth turn in the presidency initiated a renewal of crisis, instability, and military domination and ended conjecture that the political system had matured or developed a democratic mold.

Ecuador - Instability and Military Dominance, 1960-72

The instability began immediately. Ponce was so angry over Velasco's vicious campaign attacks on his government that he resigned on his last day in office rather than preside over the inauguration of his successor. During his campaign, "the National Personification" had promised government support to the masses of urban poor, many of whom had recently migrated to Guayaquil and other major cities in search of a decent job and a place to live. Velasco's populism continued into his inaugural address, when he renounced the hated 1942 Rio Protocol. He thus came to power with the adoration of the masses, but he saddled himself with expensive commitments to the poor at a time when deficits in the state coffers were approaching a critical level. Additionally, Velasco threatened Ecuador's shaky economy with what amounted to a declaration of hostilities against Peru and the guarantors of the Rio Protocol, namely Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the United States.

Sensing the direction of the political wind in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, Velasco magnified his anti-United States rhetoric and included leftists in his government. Meanwhile, the United States encouraged Latin American governments to break diplomatic relations with Cuba. Before long, Ecuador's widening political polarization became manifest in outbreaks of violence between leftist students and the anticommunist right.

The rapidly deteriorating economic situation soon brought about a split in the velasquista coalition, however, with the left, led by Vice President Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy (who was also president of the Chamber of Deputies) openly opposing the government in July 1961. By October relations between Velasco's government and Congress had deteriorated to the point where legislators and progovernment spectators engaged in a gun battle. Although dozens of bullet holes were later found in the Chamber, no one was injured.

A series of new sales taxes imposed during the same month in order to raise desperately needed revenues then sparked a general strike and a series of demonstrations and riots in several major cities. Amid growing chaos, Velasco ordered the arrest of his vice president, a move that opened him to charges of violating the constitution. On November 8, after only fourteen months in office, Velasco was ousted by the military and replaced by Arosemena, who was his constitutional successor as well as his leading opponent.

Arosemena came from a well-known Guayaquil family; his father had briefly served as president following a previous anti-Velasco coup in 1947. In an attempt to allay concerns about his being a dangerous leftist (as Velasco's vice president he had expressed warm sympathy for Cuban leader Fidel Castro Ruz and made a much- criticized trip to the Soviet Union), Arosemena named a cabinet that included Liberals and even Conservatives and quickly sent former President Galo Plaza on a goodwill trip to Washington.

Arosemena's insistence on maintaining relations with Cuba, however, became a major domestic political issue in Ecuador. Political opponents labeled Arosemena a dangerous communist, and part of the military went into open rebellion in March 1962. The following month, Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Cuba, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. The crisis over Cuba proved to be very costly for Arosemena, who lost not only much of his local political support, but also the self-confidence to pursue his own, independent course. Afterward, the government drifted with little leadership from the president, who allegedly indulged in frequent drinking bouts.

The brief appearance of a guerrilla movement in the coastal jungle and a rash of small-scale terrorist incidents (many of which later were found to have been staged by right-wing provocateurs) also left Arosemena open to accusations of being either unable or unwilling to stop communist subversion. By early 1963, military conspiracy was again afoot. On July 11 the high command of the armed forces decided, without dissent, to depose Arosemena.

The four-man military junta that seized power announced its intention not to return the nation to constitutional rule until the institution of basic socioeconomic reforms, which both Velasco and Arosemena had promised but never implemented. This failure by their two civilian predecessors, the junta believed, had become a source of growing frustration within the lower classes, thus making them more receptive to the lure of communism. The junta combined its reformist anticommunism with the more traditional hard-line variety. After jailing or exiling the entire leadership of the communist left, the new government reorganized the nation's two leading universities in an effort to eliminate them as sources of left-wing political activity.

In July 1964, the junta decreed the Agrarian Reform Law to commemorate the first anniversary of its assumption of power. The law abolished the huasipungo system, the feudalistic land tenure arrangement widely used in the Sierra. However, the law resulted in little real improvement in the lives of the long-suffering Sierra peasants and died from lack of funding under subsequent civilian governments.

Meaningful reform was precluded, in part at least, by the increasingly cumbersome process of decision making within the politically heterogeneous, plural executive. Insubordination by the air force representative on the junta led to his dismissal and arrest in November 1965; thereafter, the junta had only three members.

In 1965 Ecuador also saw a dramatic drop in its revenue from banana exports and, despite generous development assistance from the United States government and the Inter-American Development Bank, the junta suddenly faced an economic crisis of major proportions. The announcement of increased taxes on imports sparked the opposition of the powerful Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce, which in March called for a general strike. Long- disgruntled student groups and labor unions were only too happy to join in the protest, which rapidly spread to other cities. On March 29, 1966, following a bloody and demoralizing attack on the Central University in Quito, the disillusioned military reformers stepped down.

The following day, a small group of civilian leaders named Clemente Yerovi Indaburu, a non-partisan banana grower who had served as minister of economy under Galo Plaza, to be provisional president. In October a popularly elected constituent assembly drafted a new constitution and elected Otto Arosemena Gómez, a cousin of Carlos Julio and a political centrist, to act as a second provisional president. During his twenty months in office, the new constitution went into effect in May 1967, and popular elections for president were held in June 1968. Incredibly, Velasco--now seventy-five years old--was voted into the presidency for the fifth time, an incredible thirty-four years after his initial victory.

The weakness of Velasco's mandate--he managed only a plurality of barely one-third of the popular vote in a crowded field of five candidates--foreshadowed political difficulties that plagued him during his final term. His newly formed National Velasquista Federation (Federación Nacional Velasquista--FNV) was far short of a majority in either house of Congress, and a failure to build any working coalition made for a stalemate in the legislative process. Even Velasco's own vice president, a Guayaquileño Liberal named Jorge Zavala Baquerizo, turned into a strident and vocal critic. Cabinet ministers came and went with astonishing frequency. This political impasse soon combined with the fiscal and balance-of- payments crises, which by now had become customary under the spendthrift habits and administrative mismanagement associated with each of Velasco's terms in office, to spawn a major political crisis. The turning point came on June 22, 1970, when Velasco, in an action known as an autogolpe (self-seizure of power), dismissed Congress and the Supreme Court and assumed dictatorial powers.

Velasco subsequently decreed a number of necessary, though extremely unpopular, economic measures. After devaluing the sucre for the first time since 1961, he placed tight controls on foreign exchange transactions and then decreed a number of new tax measures, the most controversial of which raised import tariffs considerably. Velasco attempted to compensate for his lost prestige by baiting the United States, seizing and fining United States fishing boats found within 200 nautical miles of the Ecuadorian coast. The intensification of the "tuna war" inflamed tempers in both countries; Ecuador dismissed United States military advisers, and the United States withdrew almost all economic and military aid to Ecuador. Such nationalistic adventures were of only momentary value to Velasco, however. In 1971, amid mounting civic unrest that verified the extent of the opposition, he was forced to cancel a scheduled national plebiscite in which he hoped to replace the 1967 constitution, with the charter written under his own auspices in 1946 the Constitution, Velasco argued, made the president too weak to be effective.

The president's autogolpe and his continuance in power were possible because of support from the armed forces. Velasco's key ally was his nephew and minister of defense, General Jorge Acosta Velasco, who continually reshuffled the high command in order to retain velasquistas in key posts. In the wake of a failed attempt to oust the powerful commandant of the Quito military academy in April 1971, however, Acosta himself was forced to resign his ministerial portfolio and was summarily dispatched to Madrid as ambassador. Having lost the man who was his linchpin in the armed forces and the only apparent heir to the velasquista throne, Velasco was left to the mercy of the high command.

Two circumstances proved critical in persuading the military to overthrow Velasco before the scheduled completion of his term in 1972. On the one hand, the state was due very shortly to begin reaping vast revenues under a 1964 petroleum concession. On the other hand, the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency in 1972 was Asaad Bucaram Elmhalim, a former street peddler who in 1960 had seized the leadership of the CFP from Guevara Moreno and later had twice been an extremely popular mayor of Guayaquil. Both the military and the business community regarded Bucaram as dangerous and unpredictable and unfit to be president, especially at a time when unprecedented income was expected to flow into the state coffers. On February 15, 1972, four months before the scheduled elections, the military once again overthrew Velasco, who was sent into his final period of exile. He was replaced by a three-man military junta headed by the Army chief of staff, General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara.

Ecuador - Direct Military Rule, 1972-79

The military regime called itself "nationalist and revolutionary," but the well-known connections of Rodríguez Lara to the Guayaquil business community signaled disappointment for those who anticipated that he would head a progressive military regime such as was ruling in Peru at the time. It shortly became apparent that, ideologically, the Rodríguez Lara regime was a hybrid, reflecting a tenuous equilibrium among the widely divergent political tendencies within the Ecuadorian armed forces. Nevertheless, like the contemporary Peruvian and Brazilian regimes, the regime of Rodríguez Lara, he promised, would not be an interim government, but rather a long-term venture dedicated to introducing structural changes thought necessary to unfreeze the development process.

Rodríguez Lara's regime gave early emphasis to a campaign designed in part to exert firm control over the nation's petroleum resources and in part to consolidate the government's political authority. Several former political leaders, including ex-President Otto Arosemena, were tried for corruption in connection with oil concessions granted during the 1960s. In addition, a large number of functionaries of the Velasco government, supporters of Bucaram, as well as drug traffickers, legitimate importers, and customs officials were charged with corruption and "illegal enrichment." Although it thus assailed its major opponents from the start the military regime, however, failed to build its own civilian base of political support.

Promises of a "meaningful agrarian reform" under the auspices of Minister of Agriculture Guillermo Maldonado, a dedicated reformer, were frustrated by intense opposition from traditional elites. Maldonado was eventually forced out, and by the end of Rodríguez Lara's four years in office less than 1 percent of Ecuador's cultivable land had changed hands under the reform. More notable achievements came in the areas of building infrastructure projects, such as the major oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Esmeraldas; various highway and electrification projects; and state capitalist enterprises, particularly the Ecuadorian State Petroleum Corporation (Corporación Estatal Petrolera Ecuatoriana-- CEPE). The lateter corporation was founded in 1972 and grew to become the major actor in Ecuador's exploitation of its oil reserves.

Oil policy was the regime's vehicle for its most forceful expression of nationalism. Minister of Natural Resources Gustavo Jarrín Ampudia presided over Ecuador's 1973 entry into the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with all its attendant prestige and economic benefits. He was also responsible for Ecuador's renegotiation of a number of oil concessions, including the key Texaco-Gulf concession in the Oriente, on terms much more favorable to the state, such as substantial increases in both the royalties paid by foreign firms and the tax rate they paid on petroleum exports. These efforts were initially successful in allowing the government to retain a larger share of Ecuador's petroleum earnings.

The oil companies became increasingly disconcerted, however, when Jarrín proposed in late 1974 that the share of stock in the Texaco-Gulf subsidiary held by CEPE be increased from 25 to 51 percent. Claiming that the terms of their concessions negotiated with Jarrín had priced Ecuadorian oil beyond the world market price, the oil companies cut back drastically on their exports, at a cost to the government of hundreds of millions of dollars over the following nine months. This intense financial pressure finally led to a July 1975 announcement that taxes on the oil companies' exports were being reduced. It was thus clear that the military regime had overplayed its nationalistic oil policy, having failed to keep in mind that Ecuador was, after all, a relatively small oil producer and thus not a powerful player within OPEC.

The moderation of the regime's oil policy, however, did not result in the anticipated resolution of mounting economic problems. Oil exports rose only slightly, while imports, particularly of luxury items, continued to soar, aided by a low-tariff policy that had been designed to soak up petroleum earnings, and thus control inflation. In excess of 22 percent during 1974, inflation was rapidly eroding the real value of wages within the middle class.

In August, in an effort to resolve its balance-of-payments difficulties, the regime decreed a 60 percent duty on imported luxury items. The measure was condemned by the Chambers of Commerce in Quito and Guayaquil, whose constituents had grown dependent on the sale of imports, and caused, a week later, a bloody attempt led by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Raúl González Alvear, to overthrow Rodríguez Lara. Although this coup attempt failed, at a cost of twenty-two lives, on January 11, 1976, a second, bloodless coup was successful in removing Rodríguez Lara. He was replaced by a Supreme Council of Government consisting of the commanders of the three armed services.

Virtually the only item on the agenda of the new military triumvirate was to preside over a return of the government to constitutional, civilian rule. The bloody September 1975 coup attempt had revealed the depth of the breach in the institutional unity of the armed forces. Handing the government back to civilians, it was hoped, might remove the causes of divisions within the military, or at least make it easier to hide them from public view.

The original timetable, announced in June 1976, called for a transition that was to culminate in presidential elections in February 1978. First, new government charters and electoral laws were to be drafted by appointed commissions, and then a public referendum would choose between two proposed constitutions. The transition was repeatedly slowed down, however, and in the end, instead of the less than two years originally scheduled, three years and eight months elapsed between the 1976 coup and the inauguration of a civilian president.

Two reasons are commonly cited for the delay: the slowness of decision making within the Supreme Council of Government because of ongoing disagreement within the military high command and repeated maneuverings by the military government to manipulate the electoral process, thereby controlling its outcome. Like the Rodríguez Lara government, the Council was particularly interested in seeing a poor electoral performance by the CFP and, especially, preventing Bucaram from winning the presidency.

The national referendum to choose the constitution was finally held on January 15, 1978. The results saw 23 percent of the voting population nullify their ballots, an action that had been advocated by the traditional right; 31 percent of the population voted in favor of a revised version of the 1945 constitution, and a plurality of 44 percent voted in favor of the newly drafted national charter. The charter was the more progressive of the two constitutions, its major reforms being the acknowledgement of a role for the state in socioeconomic development, the legalization of a worker self-managed (autogestional) sector in the economy, a unicameral legislature, no presidential reelection, and, for the first time in Ecuador, electoral suffrage for illiterates.

Five candidates then campaigned for the presidency. The consistent favorite in polls was Rodrigo Borja of the social democratic Democratic Left (Izquierda Democrática--ID). Because the Supreme Council of Government made sure that Bucaram was barred from running, the CFP strongman named his second in command, Jaime Roldós, to be the party's candidate. In order to broaden the appeal of the ticket, Osvaldo Hurtado, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano--PDC), was tapped to be Roldós's vice presidential running mate. The traditional rightist vote was split between two candidates, and the various parties of the Marxist left coalesced to name one candidate. After a lengthy recount, the final results of the July 16 election confirmed the initial tally of a surprise victory by Roldós, with 27 percent of the national vote. Sixto Durán Ballén, candidate of a coalition of rightist parties, finished second with 24 percent. The electoral law mandated that when no candidate achieved a majority vote, a run-off election between the two top finishers be held.

It was more than nine months before the second-round election took place, however. They were months of considerable political tension and doubt as to whether the transition would proceed as planned. First, widespread problems in organizing the election and in the vote count during the first round left serious doubts as to the competence and honesty of the electoral authorities. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Superior Electoral--TSE) was, as a result, completely reorganized. Second, the government-- remembering a campaign slogan calling "Roldós to the government, Bucaram to power"--was understandably dismayed with results of the first-round election. By delaying the second round, the government sought to give rightists the time to build an anti-Roldós coalition under which Durán could emerge as the second-round victor. To complicate matters further, Abdón Calderón Múñoz, a populist candidate who had won 9 percent of the vote in the first round, was murdered under circumstances implicating the government. Finally, as a further distraction during this difficult period, Velasco returned from exile to bury his wife and died in March 1979 at age eighty-six.

The second round was finally held on April 29, 1979, with the Roldós-Hurtado ticket sweeping to an overwhelming 68.5 percent victory against a weak performance by Durán. Doubts persisted, however, up to the moment that the winners took office three months later, that the military would allow them to assume their duly elected offices. The size of their popular mandate and, according to political scientist John D. Martz, pressure from the administration of President Jimmy Carter in Washington made it difficult for the military to stop the "democratization" process at this late date. The military did extract as a price, in any case, unprecedented powers to name representatives to the boards of directors of major state corporations and to participate directly in the naming of the minister of defense. The outgoing government also made it clear to Roldós (who had an early campaign slogan of "we will not forgive, we will not forget") that it would not tolerate any investigation into the behavior of the military with respect to human rights. With his autonomy thus diminished, Roldós finally assumed the presidency on August 10, and thus Ecuador returned to constitutional, civilian rule after almost a decade of dictatorship.

Ecuador - Return to Democratic Rule, 1979-84

Roldós presided over a nation that had undergone profound changes during the seven years of military rule. During the ceremony to pass the mantle of power to Roldós, Admiral Alfredo Poveda Burbano pointed proudly to impressive indicators of economic growth between 1972 and 1979: the government budget expanded some 540 percent, whereas exports as well as per capita income increased a full 500 percent. Industrial development had also progressed, stimulated by the new oil wealth as well as Ecuador's preferential treatment under the provisions of the Andean Common Market (Ancom, also known as the Andean Pact).

Past export "booms" in cacao and bananas were managed by and for private coastal interests, but the state controlled the petroleum bonanza and thereby transformed the social landscape. Quito--the seat of the bureaucracy and the closest major city to the oil fields--reaped the benefits of the economic growth. The capital city lost much of its sleepy Sierra character and in the 1980s competed with Guayaquil as a center of modern economic endeavor. Employment in the public sector grew in excess of 10 percent annually throughout the late 1970s, creating a new consumption-oriented middle class in Quito. But such change highlighted the persistence of the traditional rural campesino and the unskilled urban subproletariat; petroleum revenues thus widened Ecuador's habitual inequality in income distribution.

Expectations that the economic and social changes would transform the traditional political culture were unfulfilled. Customary aspects of civilian politics, such as regionalism and personalism, reflected in the proliferation of political parties; and rivalry between the executive and legislature persisted during the five years that Roldós and his vice president, Osvaldo Hurtado, were in power.

The most destructive of these traditions was evident in the intense rivalry that developed between Roldós and Bucaram, the strongman of the president's own CFP who, having twice been prevented from running for the presidency, was now determined to run the country from his power base in the unicameral legislature, the National Congress (Congress Nacional--hereafter, Congress). Bucaram's coalition building secured him the presidency of the legislature during the first year of the new government. The president, for his part, was determined to retain his independence from the autocratic and increasingly conservative party boss. Bucaram had no apparent agenda other than blocking the reformist agenda of the president, who was thus forced to spend most of his first year in office scratching together his own political base, independent of the CFP, in order to achieve a legislative majority.

Roldós proved successful in this effort; in August 1980, his candidate for the congressional presidency narrowly defeated the bucaramista candidate, and the CFP also suffered major losses in the municipal and provincial elections in December. The president was not able to enjoy the fruits of his success, however; on May 24, 1981, he was killed, along with his wife and the minister of defense, in an airplane crash in the southern province of Loja.

The death of Roldós generated intense popular speculation. Some Ecuadorian nationalists attributed it to the Peruvian government because the crash took place near the border where, four months previously, the two nations had participated in a bloody flare-up in their perpetual border dispute. Many of the nation's leftists, pointing to a similar crash that had killed Panamanian President Omar Torrijos Herrera less than three months later, blamed the United States government.

Roldós's constitutional successor, Hurtado, immediately faced an economic crisis brought on by the sudden end of the petroleum boom. Massive foreign borrowing, initiated during the years of the second military regime and continued under Roldós, resulted in a foreign debt that by 1983 was nearly US$7 billion. The nation's petroleum reserves declined sharply during the early 1980s because of exploration failures and rapidly increasing domestic consumption.

The economic crisis was aggravated in 1982 and 1983 by drastic climatic changes, bringing severe drought as well as flooding, precipitated by the appearance of the unusually warm ocean current known as "El Niño". Analysts estimated damage to the nation's infrastructure at US$640 million, with balance-of- payments losses of some US$300 million. The real gross domestic product (GDP) fell to 2 percent in 1982 and to -3.3 percent in 1983. The rate of inflation in 1983, 52.5 percent, was the highest ever recorded in the nation's history.

Although widely considered a center-leftist, Hurtado confronted the economic crisis by instituting highly unpopular austerity measures aimed at gaining the approval of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the international financial community at large. Hurtado eliminated government subsidies for basic foodstuffs--thus contributing to both inflation and the impoverishment of the masses--and substantially devalued the sucre. With unemployment increasing to as high as 13.5 percent, the United Workers Front (Frente Unitario de Trabajadores--FUT) launched four general strikes during Hurtado's period in office. The most militant of these nationwide strikes, in October 1982, was called off after forty-eight hours because of union leaders' fears of provoking a coup d'état.

Outside observers noted that, however unpopular, Hurtado deserved credit for keeping Ecuador in good standing with the international financial community and for consolidating Ecuador's democratic political system under extremely difficult conditions. The political right, nevertheless, believing that the economic crisis was caused by presidential policies that were inimical to free-enterprise capitalism, bitterly criticized Hurtado. The right united for the 1984 elections in order to back León Febres Cordero Ribadeneyra, a businessman from Guayaquil, with Borja running a close second. As Febres Cordero entered office on August 10, there was no end in sight to the economic crisis nor to the intense struggle that characterized the political process in Ecuador.


Ecuador is one of the smaller countries in South America. Located on the west coast and straddling the equator, Ecuador has a total area of about 280,000 square kilometers, which includes the Galápagos Islands. Roughly the size of the state of Colorado, Ecuador encompasses a wide range of natural formations and climates, from the desertlike southern coast to the snowcapped peaks of the Andes Mountains to the plains of the Amazon River Basin.

Ecuador is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the north by Colombia, and on the east and south by Peru. Ecuador continues to contest the boundary with Peru, which was established by the Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Boundaries (Rio Protocol) of 1942 and ceded to Peru a large portion of territory east of the Andes.

<>Natural Regions

Ecuador - Natural Regions

Ecuador is divided into three continental regions--the Costa, Sierra, and Oriente--and one insular region--the Galápagos Islands. The continental regions extend the length of the country from north to south and are separated by the Andes Mountains. The Galápagos Islands, officially called the Archipiélago de Colón, are located 1,000 kilometers west of the Ecuadorian coast within 1 south of the equator.

The Costa, located between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, consists of coastal lowlands, coastal mountains, and rolling hills that separate river valleys. The widest part of the region stretches 150 kilometers from Cabo San Lorenzo in Manabí Province to the foothills of the Andes Mountains. In the southern part of Guayas Province, east of the Gulf of Guayaquil, the narrow coastal plain is only fifteen to twenty kilometers wide. The lowlands of the Costa do not exceed 200 meters in elevation, whereas the coastal mountains extend no higher than 1,000 meters. The coastal mountain chain, known as the Cordillera Costañera, divides the region into the Costa Externa, next to the coast, and the Costa Internal, next to the Andes. The Cordillera Costañera reaches from Esmeraldas in the north to Guayaquil in the south. North of Portoviejo in Manabí Province, the Cordillera Costañera loses its character as a mountain chain and becomes a series of hills and small mountains.

The Sierra consists of two major chains of the Andes mountains, known as the Cordillera Occidental (Western Chain) and Cordillera Oriental (Eastern Chain), and the intermontane basin or plateau between the two chains. Several transversal mountain spurs, known as nudos, cut across the plateau. The Nudo del Azuay, at 4,500 meters the highest of these transversal spurs, divides the Sierra into two subregions--the area of modern volcanism to the north and the area of ancient volcanism to the south. The former area consists of newer, higher mountains than those in the ancient volcanism section, which with time have eroded to lower levels.

The Sierra has at least twenty-two peaks over 4,200 meters in height. Of the two cordilleras, the Cordillera Oriental is wider and generally higher, with peaks averaging over 4,000 meters. The Cordillera Occidental, however, contains the highest point in Ecuador, which is the Mount Chimborazo at 6,267 meters. The Sierra also contains the highest point on the equator, Mount Cayambe at 5,790 meters.

The Sierra has at least thirty peaks of volcanic origin, including six still active. These peaks, which vary in width from 80 to 130 kilometers, are located in the area of modern volcanism known as the Avenue of the Volcanos. The most active volcano is Mount Sangay, 5,230 meters high. Although its last major outpouring of lava occurred in 1946, specialists consider Mount Sangay to be in a constant state of eruption because of fires and bubbling lava at its crater. Mount Cotopaxi, at 5,897 meters the highest active volcano in the world, last erupted in 1877 and is now listed as "steaming." Its crater is 800 meters in diameter. In addition to the other damage caused by eruptions, volcanos in the Sierra have melted snowcaps, which in turn generate massive mudslides and avalanches. Earthquakes and tremors also are common in the region.

The intermontane plateau between the two cordilleras is divided by the nudos into roughly 10 basins, or hoyas, that range from 2,000 to 3,000 meters in altitude. The average altitude of the plateau is 2,650 meters.

The Oriente to the east of the Cordillera Oriental consists of two subregions: the Andean piedmont and the Eastern lowlands. The piedmont drops from a height of 3,353 meters to the featureless lowlands, which spread out at an altitude of 150 to 300 meters.

The Galápagos Islands consist of a chain of large, medium, and small islands that have a combined area of roughly 8,000 square kilometers. The largest island is Isabela Island, also known as Albemarle Island, which is 120 kilometers long with an area of 4,275 square kilometers. All of the islands are of volcanic origin, and some have active cones. Santo Tomás, located on Isabela Island, is the highest peak of the Galápagos at 1,490 meters. Its crater is ten kilometers in diameter.

Ecuador - Rivers

Almost all of the rivers in Ecuador rise in the Sierra region and flow east toward the Amazon River or west toward the Pacific Ocean. The rivers rise from snowmelt at the edges of the snowcapped peaks or from the abundant precipitation that falls at higher elevations. In the Sierra region, the streams and rivers are narrow and flow rapidly over precipitous slopes. Rivers may slow and widen as they cross the hoyas yet become rapid again as they flow from the heights of the Andes to the lower elevations of the other regions. The highland rivers broaden as they enter the more level areas of the Costa and the Oriente.

In the Costa region, the Costa Externa has mostly intermittent rivers that are fed by constant rains from December through May and become empty riverbeds during the dry season. The few exceptions are the longer, perennial rivers that flow throughout the Costa Externa from the Costa Internal and the Sierra on their way to the Pacific Ocean. The Costa Internal, by contrast, is crossed by perennial rivers that may flood during the rainy season, sometimes forming swamps.

The Guayas River system, which flows southward to the Gulf of Guayaquil, constitutes the most important of the drainage systems in the Costa Internal. The Guayas River Basin, including land drained by its tributaries, is 40,000 square kilometers in area. The sixty-kilometer-long Guayas River forms just north of Guayaquil out of the confluence of the Babahoyo and Daule rivers. Briefly constricted at Guayaquil by hills, the Guayas widens south of the city and flows through a deltaic network of small islands and channels. At its mouth, the river forms a broad estuary with two channels around Puná Island, the deeper of which is used for navigation.

The second major Costa river system--the Esmeraldas--rises in the Hoya de Quito in the Sierra as the Guayllabamba River and flows westward to empty into the Pacific Ocean near the city of Esmeraldas. The Esmeraldas River is 320 kilometers long and has a 20,000-square-kilometer drainage basin.

Major rivers in the Oriente include the Pastaza, Napo, and Putumayo. The Pastaza is formed by the confluence of the Chambo and the Patate rivers, both of which rise in the Sierra. The Pastaza includes the Agoyan waterfall, which at sixty-one meters is the highest waterfall in Ecuador. The Napo rises near Mount Cotopaxi and is the major river used for transport in the Eastern lowlands. The Napo ranges in width from 500 to 1,800 meters. In its upper reaches, the Napo flows rapidly until the confluence with one of its major tributaries, the Coca River, where it slows and levels off. The Putumayo forms part of the border with Colombia. All of these rivers flow into the Amazon River. The Galápagos Islands have no significant rivers. Several of the larger islands, however, have freshwater springs.

Ecuador - Climate

Each region has different factors that affect its climate. The Costa is influenced primarily by proximity to warm or cool ocean currents. By contrast, climate in the Sierra varies more as a function of altitude. The Oriente has a fairly uniform climate that varies only slightly between the two subregions. Climate in the Galápagos Islands is both moderated by the ocean currents and affected by altitude. Throughout Ecuador variation in rainfall primarily determines seasons. Temperature is determined by altitude. With each ascent of 200 meters in altitude, temperature drops 1° C. This phenomenon is particularly significant in the Sierra.

The Costa has a tropical climate. Temperatures for the region as a whole remain fairly constant, ranging from 23° C in the south to 26° C in the north. Although seasonal changes in temperature are not pronounced, the hottest period occurs during the rainy season, especially from February to April. Near Guayaquil, the coolest months are August and September. Rainfall in the Costa decreases from north to south, with vegetation changing from tropical rainforest in the north to tropical savannah to desert in the south.

Differences in temperature and rainfall in the Costa are caused by the Peruvian Current and periodic appearances of El Niño. The Peruvian Current, also formerly known as the Humboldt, is a cold ocean current that flows north along the coasts of Chile and Peru. At Cabo Blanco, where the Gulf of Guayaquil begins, the main current veers to the west; a branch continues northward to Cabo Pasado, in Manabí Province, where it also turns westward to merge with the main current near the Galápagos Islands. The cold water and air temperatures associated with the Peruvian Current inhibit rainfall along the coast, creating dry to arid conditions. This effect is greatest along the southern coast of Ecuador.

The El Niño occurs periodically every six or seven years. Starting in late December, a change in atmospheric pressure shifts ocean currents so that warm waters come closer to shore and displace the cold waters. During this time, air and water temperatures, tides, sea levels and wave heights, and relative humidity all are higher than usual. These conditions produce heavy rainfall that generally lasts until May in an area that normally experiences nothing more than a drizzle. The resulting flooding and landslides can be devastating.

When the Peruvian Current is dominant, the amount of precipitation along the coast varies from north to south, with levels ranging from 300 centimeters to 30 centimeters, respectively. Two rainy seasons in the northernmost part of the coast become a single season (December through June) not far south. Near Esmeraldas, average annual rainfall is 250 centimeters. The rainy season shortens farther south, lasting only from January to May at Guayaquil. Very little rainfall occurs on the end of the Santa Elena Peninsula west of Guayaquil. Arid conditions prevail on the border with Peru south of the Gulf of Guayaquil.

Separated from the effects of ocean currents by the Cordillera Costañera, the Costa Internal has a hot and humid climate. Temperatures can surpass 26° C, and the vegetation and cloud cover tend to retain and augment the heat. Rain is constant during the winter months of December through May, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in February and March.

Temperatures in the Sierra do not vary greatly on a seasonal basis; the hottest month averages 16° C and the coolest month, 13° C in the upper elevations. Diurnal temperatures, however, vary dramatically, from cold mornings to hot afternoons. The almost vertical sun and the rarified air in the higher Sierra region allow the land to warm quickly during the day and lose heat quickly at night. Mornings typically are bright and sunny, whereas afternoons often are cloudy and rainy. In general, rainfall amounts are highest on exposed locations at lower altitudes. Rain also can vary on a local basis. Sheltered valleys normally receive 50 centimeters per year, whereas annual rainfall is 150 centimeters in Quito and can reach 250 centimeters on exposed slopes that catch rain-bearing winds. On a seasonal basis, the driest months are June through September.

Climate in the Sierra is divided into levels based on altitude. The tropical level--400 to 1,800 meters--has temperatures ranging from 20° C to 25° C and heavy precipitation. The subtropical level-- 1,800 to 2,500 meters--has temperatures from 15° C to 20° C and moderate precipitation. The temperate level--2,500 to 3,200 meters- -has a year-round temperature in the range of 10° C to 15° C and an annual rainfall of 100 centimeters. The temperate level experiences rainstorms, hailstorms, and fog. Winter, or the rainy season, lasts from January through June, and the dry season or summer from July through December. Most rain falls in April. There also is a short rainy period in early October caused by moisture penetrating the Sierra from the Oriente. Quito and most other populated areas in the Sierra are located at this temperate level. The cold level extends from the temperate zone to 4,650 meters. Here, average temperatures are 3° C to 9° C, and the precipitation often appears in the form of rain, hail, and thick fog. Above 4,650 meters is the frozen level, where peaks are constantly capped with snow and ice, and temperatures range from below zero to 3° C. Precipitation frequently is in the form of snow, fog, and rain.

The Eastern lowlands in the Oriente experience an equatorial climate. Rainfall is abundant, especially in the Andean piedmont, sometimes exceeding 500 centimeters per year. Temperatures average 25° C in the western parts of this region. The jungle-covered plains of the Eastern lowlands register high levels of rainfall and temperatures surpassing 28° C.

Being located on the equator, the Galápagos Islands would have an equatorial climate were it not for the modifying effects of the Peruvian Current. Instead, climate on the islands follows a pattern more like that of the Sierra than the Costa. At sea level, the land is desertlike with temperatures of 21° C. The eight summer months experience no precipitation, whereas the winter months of January through April have some fog and drizzle. Above sea level to an altitude of 450 meters, the islands have a mixture of tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates. In general, temperatures are around 17° C. There is constant fog and drizzle in the summer and rain in the winter. The cold level above 450 meters has temperatures below 14° C.

Ecuador - Society

PROFOUND REGIONAL, ETHNIC, AND social divisions continued to characterize Ecuadorian society in the 1980s. The country's three main geographic regions, differing in their histories and economies, provided one of these divisions, and there were also ethnic and social cleavages within the regions. The Oriente (eastern region) traditionally was a neglected backwater, isolated geographically and culturally from the rest of the nation. Its population was limited to dispersed groups of indigenous tropicalforest Indians who lived by slash-and-burn agriculture or hunting and gathering. European intrusion was limited to the occasional missionary or trader. Beginning in the 1960s, however, the Oriente experienced colonization by land-poor peasants from the Sierra (Andean highlands) and exploration by oil companies. Both colonization and exploration had a devastating impact on the indigenous population.

The Sierra, the region of earliest European settlement, was ruled for most of its history by a narrow rural oligarchy whose power base lay in the sizeable haciendas they controlled. The haciendas dominated both social and economic relations. Most of the population depended to a greater or lesser extent on the largess of the white elite who controlled land. This elite ruled virtually without challenge until the mid-twentieth century. Between this white elite and the mass of Sierra Indians, were the mestizos or cholos--persons of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry. In values and identity, they were closer to the dominant whites. The Sierra Indians, who stood at the bottom of the social pyramid, had very limited opportunities for economic security or social advancement. Both mestizos and whites regarded Indians as immutably inferior. The latter's only hope for improvement lay in assimilating the norms and values of the dominant ethnic groups, thereby changing ethnic affiliation.

Like the hacendados of the Sierra, the elite of the Costa (coastal region) also had its roots in agriculture and the control of land, but its attention focused primarily on export crop production and commerce. Ethnically more diverse than the Hispanic elite of the Sierra, the Costa upper class included successful immigrant families drawn over the years by the region's expanding economy. Most of Ecuador's blacks, the descendants of the small numbers of African slaves who came to work on the region's plantations, were also costeños (residents of the Costa).

The twentieth century saw the rise of an Ecuadorian middle class whose interests were genuinely distinct from the narrowly based rural oligarchy, and the demise of the self-contained, autonomous hacienda. Changes in the hacienda economy created a mobile, rural-based labor force, and by the end of the 1980s, society consisted of a small, privileged elite; a more numerous, diverse, and politically active middle class; and the mass of impoverished small-scale peasants, artisans, and wage earners. The middle class transformed Ecuadorian politics.

Like many other Latin American nations, Ecuador had enacted agrarian reform legislation in the 1960s and 1970s. These laws brought little substantive improvement in the lives of most peasants, but rather afforded Costa and Sierra landlords an impetus and an opportunity to replace their resident and permanent laborers with temporary workers. In the Sierra this trend, coupled with increased population pressure on land, continued a pattern of migration to the Costa and the Oriente that had begun in the 1950s. The volume of rural-urban migration grew in both the Costa and Sierra until, in the early 1980s, nearly half of all Ecuadorians lived in cities.

Ecuador - Population

The government conducted national censuses in 1950, 1962, 1974, and 1982 and scheduled another for 1990. In the late 1980s, estimates of total population by 1990 ranged from 10.8 to 11 million. The annual growth rate was an estimated 2.3 to 2.8 percent. Population growth rates had been high since the onset of modern census-taking, with an increase of 3.2 percent annually in the 1960s and 3.0 percent in the 1970s. Demographers expected the rate to decline to approximately 2.4 percent by the end of the century. Their estimates of total population in 2000 ranged from 13.6 to 14.2 million with the lower figure more commonly accepted.

Despite the declining growth rate, a variety of indicators from the 1980s showed the country to be in the midst of a population explosion that was likely to continue beyond the year 2000. Between the early 1950s and the mid-1980s, the crude death rate fell by nearly 60 percent. The infant mortality rate, which dropped by nearly half to approximately 63 per 1,000 live births in 1985, accounted for most of the decline. The crude birth rate dropped from 47 to 37 per 1,000 population during the same time; given the relative youthfulness of the population, however, growth rates could be expected to remain high for decades. Only Bolivia had a higher population birth rate among South American countries. Life expectancy increased by more than 25 percent between the 1950s and the mid-1980s.

The total fertility rate (the number of children a woman could expect to bear during her life) dropped by an estimated one-third between 1950 and 1990. Socioeconomic background had a significant impact on the rate; the mean by region or ethnic group varied by as much as 3.5 children per woman. Estimates of the rate by the year 2000 ranged from 3.6 to 4.3 children per woman.

The high rate of population growth generated pressure on the country's limited resources. Even assuming only moderate growth to the end of the century, the primary and secondary schools' budget would have to rise to 70 percent over that of 1980 to keep pace with population. Moreover, more than 120,000 new jobs would be required each year to maintain employment levels of the early 1980s.

Increasingly aware of the high costs of continued population growth, the government in the 1970s accepted in principle the need for family planning and control of child spacing and attempted to incorporate demographic variables into national economic planning. Nonetheless, maternal and child health programs were often ineffective. A contraceptive practices survey in 1982 found that 65 percent of the women not using contraceptives nevertheless wanted to participate in some form of family planning and would have participated in family planning if a program were available. Given continued high birth rates, many demographers doubted government estimates that 40 percent of women of childbearing age were using contraceptives in the mid-1980s.

Updated population figures for Ecuador.


For most of Ecuador's history, the majority of the population lived in the Sierra. Most of the Sierra population was clustered in the more habitable hoyas. For example, the capital city, <"http://worldfacts.us/Ecuador-Quito.htm">Quito, is located in a hoya at the foot of Mount Pichincha.

From 1950 to 1974, however, large numbers of land-poor Sierra peasants migrated to the Costa; as a result, the Costa grew substantially faster than the nation as a whole. By the mid-1970s, population figures for the Sierra and the Costa were roughly similar. The Costa expanded only at roughly the national average during the 1974-82 intercensal period. Nonetheless, by 1982 the Costa had become the most populated region in the country.

Migration (coupled with the high birth rate) transformed the country in the twentieth century. Costeños from the central region often migrated to Guayaquil and its hinterland following declines in export crop production. Serranos (residents of the Sierra) were often first "pulled" by the expanding coastal economy and then "pushed" by population pressure, agrarian reform, and modernization. The cacao-producing areas of Guayas and El Oro provinces--strategically located for those escaping the 1960s drought in Loja Province--became the most common destinations for serranos.

The cacao boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also had initiated a limited pattern of immigration to the Costa. Immigrants from Europe and Latin America generally arrived with capital to exploit the lucrative Costa commercial opportunities. Significant numbers of Lebanese, referred to locally as turcos or arabes, also moved to Guayaquil and gained considerable influence in coastal commerce and local politics. The Lebanese retained their ethnic identity and married within their own community, and both their distinctiveness and their level of prosperity set them apart and made them the target of prejudice.

Two distinct migration waves to the Oriente occurred in the twentieth century. In the early 1900s, some serranos trekked to the Oriente to pan gold and stayed to settle on the east slopes of the Andes. These migrants acquired land from the indigenous population and set up small, largely subsistence-oriented farming communities. Beginning in the 1950s, large numbers of serranos arrived in search of available land; most simply went to the Oriente province most accessible to their place of origin. Between 1950 and 1982, the Oriente experienced a more than fivefold population increase. The growth rate averaged approximately 5.6 percent annually, nearly double that of the nation as a whole. By the mid-1970s, migrants constituted nearly half the region's residents.

Beginning in the 1950s, large numbers of Ecuadorians also migrated from the countryside to the cities--a trend apparent in both the Costa and the Sierra. This migration changed life not only in the nation's two largest cities, Guayaquil and Quito, but also in intermediate-sized cities.

Both Guayaquil and Quito reflected their different histories, their distinctive regional settings, and their roles in contemporary national politics and economic development. Guayaquil was founded as a commercial link to Spain. The city's contemporary configuration began to take form with the beginning of cacao production in the eighteenth century. Always tied to international markets, Guayaquil's development reflected the perturbations of whatever export crop was currently profitable. From the colonial era onward, Quito developed principally as an administrative center. As the capital city, Quito represented the epitome of the serrano elite's Hispanic values.

From 1950 to 1982, the population of Guayaquil and Quito expanded at rates substantially above the national average. Guayaquil's rate of growth was highest in the 1950s--a response to the rise in banana cultivation on the coast. Ecuador's oil boom of the 1970s generated rapid population growth in Quito during that decade, a trend that continued into the early 1980s. By 1982 Guayaquil's population stood at approximately 1.2 million residents and Quito's at roughly 870,000. Together, they represented 60 percent of the urban population.

Both cities faced a number of common problems resulting from the tremendous influx of migrants. The numbers of the poor employed in marginal sectors and occupations increased to the point that they defeated the ability of Guayaquil and Quito governments to provide basic services and employment. Each city had a central core that was ringed with densely populated tenement slums. Much of the population of these slums consisted of relatively recent migrants.

Another phenomenon affecting Guayaquil and Quito was the emergence of large squatter settlements on previously unoccupied marginal lands. The establishment of suburbio (the collective name for squatter settlements) in the marshy areas southwest of Guayaquil proper began in the 1960s; by the early 1980s, suburbio had pushed into the Guayas River estuary and encompassed half of the metropolitan population. Although the older sections of suburbio had reasonably well-provisioned water lines, sewage disposal, and streets, newer communities lacked basic services. Those who had settled in the estuary system faced the added problem of persuading municipal authorities to provide landfill and to deal with periodic flooding. Quito municipal authorities tried to prevent the spread of squatter settlements up the mountainsides to the west of the city by strictly limiting the provision of water above certain altitudes. In addition, the government squelched numerous attempts by squatters to take over private or public lands. Despite these actions, however, settlements expanded throughout the 1970s and represented between 10 and 15 percent of Quito's population by the mid-1980s.

In contrast to much of Latin America, Ecuador's intermediatesized cities experienced very high rates of growth after 1950. This was especially the case in the Costa, where the annual growth rate of intermediate-sized cities dwarfed even that of Guayaquil. Expansion of second-tier cities in the Costa resulted in part from export growth. In the 1950s and early 1960s, for example, the spread of banana cultivation and the increasing need for port facilities spurred the growth of cities like Santo Domingo, Quevedo, Esmeraldas, and Marchala. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Santo Domingo continued to grow as African palm plantations spread throughout its hinterland. Other coastal cities expanded in response to shrimp raising, fishing (and related industries), or <>tourism.

In general, mid-sized cities in the Sierra were less dynamic than their Costa counterparts. From the mid-1950s to the early 1980s, only Cuenca--Ecuador's third largest city--achieved growth rates roughly comparable to that of Quito. Agrarian reform and the reduction of the resident labor force on haciendas fostered expansion primarily of intermediate-sized cities in the Sierra. When employment opportunities existed, mid-sized cities drew migrants because they were closer to home, less disruptive to ties with the countryside, and less threatening than Guayaquil or Quito.



Ecuador's elite, in the late 1980s, included Sierra latifundistas (large landowners), Costa agro-exporters, financiers, and industrialists. Commercial and industrial interests overlapped with those of agriculture, as families in finance and industry often maintained at least a token interest in agriculture. Indeed, the purchase of land with the profits of commerce had long been considered a critical step in improving a family's standing. In addition to this overlap, there were strong intragroup ties among the elite; kinship and marriage contributed to cohesion. Newly rich families tried to turn their economic success into social capital by marrying into older, established families.

Historically, the basis of class in Ecuador lay in the control of land and the labor of those who lived on it. The Spanish conquistadors had found the region devoid of valuable minerals and the ready wealth mining provided, so the combination of land and Indians welded together in vast haciendas formed the basis of the colonial economy. The few who held land constituted a rural oligarchy. The rest of society depended on this pivotal group, in varying degrees, for livelihood, political participation, and social identity. Hacienda owners spent much of their time in their urban residences; cities existed principally to serve their wants. The small, ill-defined middle levels of urban professionals found employment serving the commercial and administrative needs of the hacienda. Artisans likewise produced mainly for hacendados.

The hacienda with its resident labor force was the center of the Sierra elite family's influence. The landowner's power within his domain was nearly absolute. Ideally, the hacendado exercised this power beneficently, to protect his followers and dependents. Whatever his inclination, everything from private morality to public religious observances fell within his purview. He settled land disputes among his resident peons, arranged marriages, and dispensed favors.

The Costa elite's lifestyle, values, and economic interests differed from its Sierra counterpart. Trade grew on the coast in response to the impetus of export agriculture. As a result, the elite on the coast had ties to other Latin American seaports and links with world commerce.

The cleavage between the two elite groups, in evidence at independence, continued to play a pivotal role in Ecuadorian politics in the 1980s. Governments parceled out political offices between the two groups, and region of origin was a critical factor in an individual's political career. Economic developments since the 1950s reinforced the dichotomies between the Costa and Sierra. The banana boom of the 1950s and 1960s revived the Costa cacao elite and funneled money to Guayaquil; in contrast, the oil boom of the 1970s benefited Quito.

Agrarian organization provided the model for other social institutions and the exercise of authority in general. Social rank and power, in the elite view, were a natural part of the social order. Individuals were ranked on the basis of birth, race, wealth, breeding, and education. The elite (and middle class) often described itself as la gente buena (the good people) or la gente decente (the respectable people), contending that it had sufficient breeding, intelligence, and culture to rule others. The subordination of workers, peasants, servants, and all Indians was an essential part of this scheme. In the elite view, gains achieved by subordinates came not as their natural right but through the beneficence of their betters.

Land reform legislation in the 1960s and 1970s left elite hegemony in agriculture and landholding largely unscathed. For one thing, Costa and Sierra landholders mounted an intense effort to oppose those elements of agricultural reform that threatened their diverse interests. For another, the laws were designed to benefit resident agricultural laborers, but on most of the coast and on the more advanced haciendas of the northern and central Sierra, landowners had already begun switching to wage labor, so there were few peons and sharecroppers to receive expropriated land. Instead, the legislation merely freed the owners from their customary obligations to resident laborers. Land reform eliminated the paternal obligations landowners had previously assigned toward their workers.

The landed elite benefited in a number of others ways as well. The price paid in compensation for expropriated private land was often inflated well above market value. Well-connected landlords usually fared better in the courts than their less-privileged tenants. Those peasants who received land rarely became selfsupporting and had to supplement their subsistence plots with seasonal wage labor elsewhere. Large landowners gained a supply of temporary wage laborers with limited political ability to make demands beyond a single season's work.

<>Middle Class

Ecuador - Middle Class

Ecuador's diverse middle class was concentrated in cities and larger towns. A minute, ill-defined group during most of the country's history, its numbers grew in the twentieth century. In the late 1970s, estimates based on income indicated that roughly 20 percent of the population was middle class. Economic expansion increased the opportunities available to the able and ambitious. The rapid increase in government employment contributed both to the size of the middle class in absolute numbers and to the group's political awareness. The rise of a middle class whose interests were not those of the rural oligarchy transformed national politics.

Businessmen, professionals, clerical employees, mid-level bureaucrats and managers, army officers, and teachers comprised the middle levels of society. They constituted a diverse group, often poorly defined in terms of both self-identity and criteria for membership. At a minimum, an individual had attained a certain level of education (at least a secondary school degree), practiced an occupation that did not require manual labor, and manifested proper manners and dress to be considered middle class.

The upper echelons frequently identified with and emulated the elite. By contrast, the lower levels of the middle class often made common cause with the more prosperous segments of the working class. The cleavage between these two groups--a prosperous, uppermiddle class oriented toward the elite and a less economically secure lower group often allied with the more privileged sectors of the working class--was reflected in lifestyle, patterns of association, and political loyalties.

In addition to the economic division, an ethnic component emerged in the ranking of the various levels of the middle class. In general, individuals became more "white" and less obviously mestizo farther up the social ladder. In addition, the middle class was ethnically more diverse than other groups. Over the years, immigrants from southern Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere in Latin America arrived to take advantage of expanding economic opportunities on the Costa. These immigrants formed the core of Ecuador's commercial interests.

Ecuador - Peasants

Until the early 1950s, peasant families formed the vast majority of the populace. Historically, these families were isolated from national society, a pattern reinforced by the nature of traditional rural social life. Social arrangements aimed at self-defense limited the intrusions of outsiders. The individual "nested" within the protective layers of family, kin, neighborhood, and village.

Peasant links to city, region, and nation were mediated through powerful outsiders, such as foremen, landowners, merchants, priests, or law enforcement officials. Such relations were typically exploitative to the peasant, but they were also multistranded--however uneven the exchange, the two parties were linked by more than just the naked self-interest of the powerful.

At the center of the peasant family's life and livelihood stood access to land. Landholding not only assured the family subsistence, but also defined its status within the community. Adult participation in village social life demanded land; nonholders remained peripheral to the most significant aspects of the community's social life, such as participation in justice.

Elite control over most land, however, left those at the bottom of the social pyramid with limited options and created the classic latifundio-minifundio (small landholding) complex. Large landholders monopolized the most desirable holdings and left marginal lands to peasants. Sierra haciendas extended from valley floor to mountain crest. The fertile valley bottoms were assigned to hacienda production whereas the steeper lands went to peons. Costa plantation owners reached the same end by controlling riverine land with ready access to markets.

Historically, the traditional Sierra hacienda engaged in mixed livestock and crop production and relied on a "captive" labor force. On the eve of land reform in the 1960s, about two-thirds of all farmers owned some land, but still remained dependent to varying degrees on haciendas. Haciendas regulated access to land mainly through the huasipungo system. The huasipunguero or concierto peon was a resident laborer who received a plot of land in return for labor on the hacienda and domestic service in the landlord's household. Although precise terms of tenure varied from valley to valley and from time to time, they were typically disadvantageous to the peon. The huasipunguero usually had to provide four days of work per week to the hacienda as well as domestic service--an especially onerous obligation that required both husband and wife to work full time at hacienda maintenance for a specified period. Finally, peons had to participate in collective work parties during planting and harvesting.

A variety of subsidiary arrangements provided an auxiliary supply of laborers. Peasants from neighboring free communities often negotiated for the use of hacienda firewood, water, and pastures. These peasants, known as yanaperos, typically worked one or two days per month and helped out at planting and harvest times. Other peasants worked hacienda lands through some type of sharecropping arrangement. Some casual wage laborers or skilled specialists were employed as production dictated, but these constituted a very minor part of the hacienda's total labor force.

The classic huasipungo system continued in use in the 1960s in relatively remote but well-populated valleys. Near towns, where other employment was available, smaller holdings and more diverse tenure arrangements typically prevailed. Merchants and other townsmen frequently owned small parcels of land, which peasants worked through sharecropping agreements. Typically, the sharecropper had lands of his own nearby; he provided labor, draft animals, tools, seed, and fertilizer. The landowner and sharecropper split the harvest.

Landowners who wished to exploit the growing urban market (especially for dairy products) found it more profitable to consolidate their holdings and sell the less desirable plots to their peons. This process of transferring marginal hacienda land to peasants was most evident in Pichincha, Imbabura, and Carchi provinces. Elsewhere (in Chimborazo and Cayambe, for example) landlords simply evicted peons and refused to compensate them, treatment that fueled peasant unionization drives.

Sharecropping and wage labor arrangements historically prevailed on the export-oriented Costa plantations. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a cacao boom occurred in the Costa. Sharecroppers on cacao plantations cultivated the crop in exchange for advances on the harvest. Plantation owners controlled most marketing channels; their economic clout came not merely from landholding, but because rental agreements typically obliged the sharecropper to sell at terms set by the landlord.

Landlords' effective control over sharecroppers declined following the 1922 blight of the cocoa crop. Sharecroppers either purchased their plots, simply assumed control of them, changed the terms of their rental agreements, or they moved onto unoccupied land. As cocoa prices rose in the 1950s, however, landowners attempted to reinstate their control. Tenants responded with efforts to unionize and, by the early 1960s, with land invasions and rent strikes. Workers on banana plantations, which developed in the 1950s employing wage labor, also tried to unionize.

Land reform legislation in the 1960s and the 1970s aimed at eliminating minifundio plots under 4.8 hectares and subjected absentee landholders to the threat of expropriation. The threat prompted some landlords to sell off at least a portion of their holdings; the main beneficiaries were peasants who could muster sufficient resources to purchase land. Land reform also eliminated the various demands for time that landlords had placed on peasants. By 1979, however, when most expropriations were completed, less than 20 percent of peasant families and 15 percent of agricultural land had been affected by agrarian reform. The legislation did little to change the structure of landholding, which remained roughly as concentrated in the mid-1970s as it had been in the mid-1950s. Nearly 350,000 farms contained less than five hectares--the minimum experts considered necessary to support a family. Almost 150,000 plots were less than one hectare.

The degree of land fragmentation in the Sierra added to the problems of poorer farmers. Andeans had long preferred some dispersion of their lands in order to take advantage of the diversity in microclimates in the region and to limit the risks to any given field. A family might have as many as twenty to thirty small fields scattered around a village. In addition to the poor farmers, there were more than 220,000 landless laborers whose situation was even more tenuous.

For the mass of small producers, agrarian reform simply increased the amount of time available to work on their own holdings. Most had so little land, however, that their own farms could hardly absorb the added labor. Some peasants, especially in the northern Sierra around Otavalo, supplemented their farming with profitable crafts production. Other families produced items such as bricks and tiles for which there was a local market. In these instances, then, additional time afforded a measure of prosperity. A survey of Sierra families in the early 1980s found, however, that fewer than 10 percent earned any of their income from traditional rural crafts. Instead, families with sufficient resources might purchase a small truck and market agricultural products.

The mass of small farmers were not so fortunate; those who did not have any plots to work or whose plots were too small to provide subsistence had to seek wage labor, since land reform regulations had deprived them of the option of working on haciendas as peons or sharecroppers. By the mid-1970s, wages, not agricultural products, had become the largest portion of small farmers' income. As nonagricultural employment expanded during the oil boom, peasant laborers increasingly chose urban employment over agricultural work. Fully one-third of all rural Sierra families surveyed in the early 1980s had at least one member working away from the family landholdings. Peasant laborers had enjoyed a measure of well-being during the economic growth of the 1970s. Both the construction and the service sectors expanded apace and cushioned land-poor peasants. The economic downturn that occurred in the 1980s, however, hit wage earners particularly hard and severely limited employment opportunities.

In the late 1970s, analysts estimated that between 370,000 and 570,000 rural Ecuadorian families lived in poverty. The worst levels of Sierra poverty were found in Chimborazo Province. Poverty in the Sierra correlated with altitude: the higher the family's holdings, the more limited its production options and the greater its poverty. Access to modern transportation was a main determinant of farm income in the Costa. The poorest coastal areas were found in isolated settlements, fishing towns, and villages in Esmeraldas Province.

The emergence of crafts as a major component in some peasant families' livelihood created the potential for intergenerational conflict. Children learned new production techniques in school that sometimes increased their own earning power beyond that of their parents. As some family members sought wage labor farther from home, those remaining relied more heavily on nonfamily wage laborers to assist with farming. Cooperative work exchanges declined in favor of hired casual labor.

The increased pressure on land also sharpened disputes about inheritance and divisions among siblings. Traditionally, inheritance provided the main means of access to land. Individuals began receiving parcels of land from their parents at marriage. Without sufficient land, a couple could not fulfill the wider obligations of sharing and reciprocity that were part of communitywide fiestas. With less land available, moreover, parents tended to favor the youngest son--the child who would stay at home and care for them in their old age. Older siblings increasingly fended for themselves or depended on the largess of the younger sibling.

The need for wage labor in the Sierra reinforced traditional patron-client ties. Former peons found themselves and their children dependent on powerful and influential outsiders as they had once been on landowners. Clientalistic bonds linked the powerless with those who could help them in finding work, emergency loans, and other forms of assistance.

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, the government pinned most of its hopes for a relief of rural poverty not on land redistribution but on colonization of relatively underpopulated regions, especially the Oriente. By the late 1970s, the Ecuadorian Institute of Agrarian Reform and Settlement (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Reforma Agraria y Colonización--IERAC) had awarded 2.5 times more land in areas of new settlement than it had redistributed in agricultural reform zones. Further, colonists normally received a forty- to fifty-hectare parcel in contrast to the minifundio typically awarded former sharecroppers or huasipungueros. Land distribution in the Oriente was more equal than in either the Costa or the Sierra. The average Oriente holding in the mid-1970s was thirty hectares. Farms from 10 to 100 hectares--65 percent of all holdings--accounted for 83 percent of the agricultural land.

Migrants to the Oriente were typically males between the ages of twenty-five and forty with little land in their home communities. They began homesteading with a small amount of savings accumulated through agricultural wage labor. Migrants cleared as much land as they could on their parcel and brought their families to join them as soon as possible. As savings were exhausted, migrants had frequent recourse to wage labor either for oil companies or for more established settlers.

The Oriente's poorly developed transport and marketing infrastructure severely constrained Sierra migrants. Settlements typically consisted of a series of long, narrow parcels of land strung along both sides of a road. Roadside land was at a premium; as it was claimed, subsequent settlers repeated the same pattern of narrow rectangular holdings behind those already established. In the more heavily settled areas, homesteads stood four to six properties deep by the late 1970s. Colonists at farthest remove were six to ten kilometers from an all-weather road--a significant impediment in marketing their crops and increasing family income.

Ecuador - Workers

The urban lower class had its roots, as a distinct social group, in the artisans of colonial society. Artisans were ethnically and socially separate from the mass of Indian laborers employed in the textile factories. Typically lower-class Spaniards or mestizos, artisans provided the urban elite with finished goods, especially luxury items. They were politically powerless. The local municipal council (cabildo) controlled the movement of artisans from their city of residence and regulated the details of workshop organization, labor practices, prices, and production.

The urban working class took on its contemporary configuration with the onset of industrialization in the twentieth century. Manufacturing remained heavily in the hands of artisans, but largescale industries such as food processing, textiles, and the railroads began to employ significant numbers of workers.

A renewed industrialization drive beginning in the 1950s, increased levels of rural to urban migration, and the oil development of the 1970s all contributed to the growth and diversity of the contemporary urban working class. Workers in stable, well-established enterprises represented the most heavily unionized portion of the lower class and counted as an articulate, well-organized voice in political affairs. These employees earned steady wages and received the benefits of social security and worker protection legislation.

Few workers enjoyed such benefits, however; the vast majority were classified as artisans or self-employed. Artisan firms ran the gamut from small, family-run businesses to middling manufacturing enterprises employing as many as thirteen workers. Self-employment typically offered little in the way of economic security. The mass of street vendors, carpenters, tailors, painters, and the like worked long hours for low earnings. In the mid-1970s, nearly onequarter of peddlers were classified as living in poverty; more than 30 percent of craftsmen and artisans also fell below the poverty line.

In addition to economic differences, the various segments of the working class were divided in other ways. Clerical workers and most white-collar workers considered themselves as superior to the rest of the working class because of education and, frequently, ethnic affiliation. The needs of wage earners for benefits and a living wage often conflicted with the interests of the more prosperous artisans, who needed to hire cheap labor.

The volume of permanent and temporary migration from the 1960s to the 1980s changed the configuration of the urban working class. Temporary was a relative concept for many migrants: for example, surveys of Quito temporary construction workers in the early 1980s found they had worked in the city for an average of six years. Migrants followed a well-trod path to urban employment, relying on fellow villagers and kin who had made the transition earlier.

The informal sector offered a haven of sorts to many unskilled and uneducated migrants and first-time job seekers. Although fiercely competitive and usually poorly remunerated, it fit with the limited capital commanded by most of these workers. It cost relatively little to build a kiosk and stock it with secondhand goods, clothes, newspapers, and the like. Some ambulatory vendors or kiosk sellers obtained higher-cost items on consignment. Only a minimal cash outlay was required to repair electrical appliances in a corner of one's home or to do laundry or cook and sell food. Such endeavors also permitted the use of unremunerated family labor and, for women, meshed well with the demands of child care. Migrants also gained an entry into the city by selling fruits and vegetables from their villages.

The construction boom fueled by oil development in the 1970s generated considerable employment for temporary migrants to Quito. Labor contractors congregated at certain well-known meeting places in the city to gather the workers they needed. Construction offered unskilled recent male migrants (and minimally educated first-time job seekers in general) positions that were poorly remunerated, insecure, nonunionized, and untouched by most worker protection legislation. Nonetheless, such work provided the beginning of an urban livelihood. A fortunate migrant might form compadrazgo (the set of relationships between a person or couple, their parents, and their godparents) ties with a labor contractor--thus obtaining a better chance at regular employment. Some seemingly menial jobs, depending on the individual's circumstances, offered significant advantages. To receive a hut on the job premises in order to guard the construction materials and tools at night, for example, solved the worker's housing dilemma and allowed him to bring his wife, who then could earn income by cooking and washing for other laborers. Migrants who stayed in the city usually became master craftsmen in a construction trade, but some, especially those who remained identifiably Indian, often remained in menial employment.

Both temporary and permanent migrants sought to maintain ties with families in the countryside. Temporary migrants' work schedules remained tied to the agricultural cycle. Those workers returned home for planting and harvest and, whenever possible, weekend visits. A migrant's involvement in farm work was a sensitive barometer of his or her ultimate intentions. An end to routine participation in the agricultural cycle marked completion of the gradual switch from temporary to permanent city dweller. Although most migrants did not send remittances home, those who did increased the earnings of a one- to five-hectare plot by an average of one-third. Even permanent migrants occasionally returned to the village for the local patron saint's feast. If a migrant had enough money, he or she bought land--typically leaving the holdings to be farmed by a relative.

Workers made some gains during the economic expansion of the 1970s. Employment was plentiful, and earnings generally kept pace with inflation. Even this prosperity was relative, however; in 1975, for example, 43 percent of the urban work force received less than the minimum wage. The economic crisis of the early and mid1980s hit the working class particularly hard. The number of workers totally unemployed reached 10 percent in 1986. Those classified as "subemployed by income" rose from 29 percent of the work force in 1970 to 40 percent in 1980. By the end of 1986, the average worker's salary met roughly half of a family's basic needs.


The country's ethnic groups descended from Spanish colonizers and South American Indians; indeed, the relationship between the two groups defined Ecuador's subsequent pattern of ethnicity. The mix of these groups created a third category, described variously as mestizos or cholos. The fourth element consisted of descendants of black slaves who arrived to work on coastal plantations in the sixteenth century. Censuses did not record ethnic affiliation, which in any event remained fluid; thus, estimates of the numbers of each group should be taken only as approximations. In the 1980s, Indians and mestizos represented the bulk of the population, with each group accounting for roughly 40 percent of total population. Whites represented 10 to 15 percent and blacks the remaining 5 percent.

The precise criteria for defining ethnic groups varied considerably. The vocabulary that more prosperous mestizos and whites used in describing ethnic groups mixed social and biological characteristics. Typically, higher-status whites considered their own positions as derived from a superior racial background. Nonetheless, ethnic affiliation remained dynamic; Indians often became mestizos, and prosperous mestizos sought to improve their status sufficiently to be considered whites. Ethnic identity reflected numerous characteristics, only one of which was physical appearance; others included dress, language, community membership, and self-identification.

No pretense to equality or egalitarianism existed in ethnic relations. From the perspective of those in the upper echelons, the ranking of ethnic groups was undisputed: whites, mestizos, blacks, and Indians. As the self-proclaimed standard bearers of civilization, whites contended that only they manifested proper behavior, an appropriate sense of duty to family and kin, and the values integral to the Christian, European culture.

As with much of social life, this particular view of ethnicity had strongly feudal overtones. The conquistadors accepted and lauded hierarchy and rank. Their success in subduing the Inca Empire made them lords of the land and justified holding Indians as serfs, to serve as a cheap source of labor. Although individuals might change their position in the hierarchy, social mobility itself was not positively viewed. The movement of individuals up and down the social scale was regrettable--ideally, a person should be content with, and maintain, his or her assigned role in the social order.

The geography of ethnicity remained well-defined until the surge in migration that began in the 1950s. Whites resided primarily in larger cities. Mestizos lived in small towns scattered throughout the countryside. Indians formed the bulk of the Sierra rural populace, although mestizos filled this role in the areas with few Indians. Most blacks lived in Esmeraldas Province, with small enclaves found in the Carchi and Imbabura provinces. Pressure on Sierra land resources and the dissolution of the traditional hacienda, however, increased the numbers of Indians migrating to the Costa, the Oriente, and the cities. By the 1980s, Sierra Indians--or Indians in the process of switching their ethnic identity to that of mestizos--lived on Costa plantations, in Quito, Guayaquil, and other cities, and in colonization areas in the Oriente and the Costa. Indeed, Sierra Indians residing in the coastal region substantially outnumbered the remaining original Costa inhabitants, the Cayapa and Colorado Indians. In the late 1980s, analysts estimated that there were only about 4,000 Cayapas and Colorados. Some blacks had migrated from the remote region of the Ecuadorian-Colombian border to the towns and cities of Esmeraldas.

<>Whites and Mestizos
<>Sierra Indians
<>Oriente Indians

Ecuador - Whites and Mestizos

Whites constituted the most privileged ethnic group and occupied the top of Ecuador's social pyramid. Despite their own realization that there was an admixture of Indian genes in their heritage, whites placed considerable emphasis on their purported purity of blood and Spanish ancestry. Although whites shared a common cultural background, differences in class and regional loyalties--especially the split between Quito and Guayaquil-- remained important.

In general, financially successful whites were employed as high-status professionals, government officials, prosperous merchants, and financiers. In the white ideal, manual labor was viewed as degrading and evidence of an inability to maintain a proper lifestyle. Accordingly, business interests were geared toward maintaining the family's social status rather than the pursuit of economic success for its own sake.

Below the white elite, but merging with it, were mestizos or cholos. Mestizos shared, to a large extent, a common set of values and a general cultural orientation with whites. Indeed, the boundary between the two groups remained fluid. Geography also played a role. In the smaller towns of the Sierra, those of mixed ancestry would call themselves whites, but they would be considered as mestizos by whites of larger cities or by those with more clearly superior social status. Income and lifestyle also constituted important factors; a wealthy mestizo might be called a white, whereas a poorer one would be classified as a mestizo. Those in rural areas sometimes distinguished between "whites" and "legitimate whites." The latter could demonstrate to the satisfaction of the local community that their parents were considered white. Differing views of ethnicity partially reflected status differences between those involved in a given exchange. Hacienda foremen, for example, typically thought of themselves as whites. Although Indians would agree with that classification, hacendados regarded foremen as mestizos.

The terminology and categories themselves derived from colonial legal distinctions. Peninsulares (Spanish-born persons residing in the New World) ranked at the top of the social hierarchy. They enjoyed a range of legal privileges and status denied even wealthy criollos born of Spanish parents in the colonies. The pedigree of forbearers defined status at every level. Individuals were ranked by the number of grandparents legally classified as white.

Common usage, however, modified the categories through the centuries. In the nineteenth century, for example, the term mestizo described a person whose parents were an Indian and a white. In contrast, a cholo was one whose parents were an Indian and a mestizo. By the twentieth century, mestizo and cholo were frequently used interchangeably. On occasion, however, some people used cholo in a derogatory sense to describe an Indian trying to rise above his or her proper station. Other people might use cholo to designate an intermediate category between Indian and mestizo.

As with whites, facility in Spanish, urban orientation, livelihood, manners, and fineness of clothing defined mestizo identity. Traditionally, mestizos filled the intermediate occupations such as clerk, small merchant, hacienda foreman, and low-ranking bureaucrat. Although mestizos were assumed to be of mixed Indian-white ancestry, an Indian might gradually become mestizo by abandoning his or her previous lifestyle.

Usually, individuals desiring to switch ethnic affiliation had to leave their villages, learn Spanish well enough to mask their origin, and acquire a mestizo occupation. They also had to acquire sufficient finesse and confidence in dealing with whites and mestizos not to be marked as Indians. It was virtually impossible for an Indian to change ethnic identity in his or her home community. No improvement in expertise, level of education, or facility in Spanish would cause locals to treat one born an Indian as a mestizo.

In special circumstances, individuals could move from one group to the other without leaving their communities. For example, the Saraguro Indians of southern Ecuador were generally more prosperous than local whites. Indeed, the latter either depended on the Saraguros for their livelihood or lived in communities where typically most of the populace was Indian. As a result, a distinctive pattern of ethnic change prevailed. Some whites opted to become Indians, usually improving their economic options in the process. A few Indians decided to improve their ethnic status and became white. The switch was made, however, without resort to subterfuge. Indians did not hide their origins, nor leave their home communities.

Ecuador - Blacks

Approximately one-half million blacks lived on the north coast and its riparian hinterlands, the descendants of African slaves who worked on coastal sugar plantations in the sixteenth century. Blacks held a slightly higher position in the ethnic hierarchy than Indians, manifesting little of the subservience that characterized Indians in dealing with whites and mestizos. Few readily identifiable elements of African heritage remained, although observers noted aspects of dance, music, and magical belief that represented purported vestiges of African influence. Some linguists saw evidence of an "Africanized" Spanish in the dialects spoken by those blacks living in the more remote areas.

Most blacks earned their livelihood in subsistence agriculture supplemented by wage labor, fishing, and work on cargo boats. Women on the coast earned income through shellfish gathering. Before the onslaught of Sierra to Costa migration in the 1960s and 1970s, some black males earned their living running small stores and cantinas and others served as intermediaries between black laborers and white and mestizo employers. White and mestizo migrants, however, took over virtually all small-scale commerce and marketing efforts and increasingly served as employment brokers. The switch made skin color more important as an ethnic marker, with light-skinned blacks enjoying greater opportunities for mobility than those with darker skin.

Ecuador - Sierra Indians

Sierra Indians had an estimated population of 1.5 to 2 million in the early 1980s and lived in the intermontane valleys of the Andes. Prolonged contact with Hispanic culture, which dated back to the conquest, had a homogenizing effect, reducing the variation among the indigenous Sierra tribes.

The Indians of the Sierra were separated from whites and mestizos by a castelike gulf. They were marked as a disadvantaged group; to be an Indian or indígena in Ecuador was to be stigmatized. Indians were usually poor and frequently illiterate, they enjoyed limited participation in national institutions, and they commanded access to few of the social and economic opportunities available to more privileged groups.

Visible markers of ethnic affiliation, especially hairstyle, dress, and language, separated Indians from the rest of the populace. Indians wore more manufactured items by the late 1970s than previously; their clothing, nonetheless, was distinct from that of other rural inhabitants. Indians in communities relying extensively on wage labor sometimes assumed Western-style dress while still maintaining their Indian identity. Indians spoke Quichua--a Quechua dialect--although most were bilingual, speaking Spanish as a second language with varying degrees of facility. By the late 1980s, some younger Indians no longer learned Quichua.

Most whites and mestizos viewed Indians as inherently inferior. Some regarded indígenas as little better than a subspecies. A more benign perspective condescendingly considered the Indian as an intellectual inferior, an emotional child in need of direction. Such views underlay the elaborate public etiquette required in Indian-white/mestizo interactions. Common practice allowed whites and mestizos to use first names and familiar verb and pronoun forms in addressing Indians.

Although public deference to other ethnic groups supported stereotypes of Indians as intellectually inferior, Indians viewed deference as a survival strategy. Deference established that an individual Indian was properly humble and deserving of the white's or mestizo's aid and intercession. Given the relative powerlessness of Indians, such an approach softened the rules governing interethnic exchanges.

The tenor of such exchanges differed in cases of limited hacienda dominance. The Otavalos of northern Ecuador, the Saraguros, and the Salaacas in the central Sierra resisted hacienda intrusion and domination by whites and mestizos. These Indians were thus less inclined to be subservient and adopted instead an attitude of aloofness or distance in dealing with whites and mestizos.

Most Indians, however, could improve their situation only by changing their ethnic affiliation. Such a switch in allegiances was fraught with risk, since individuals thereby lost the security offered by their small community of family and neighbors. Many rejected such an extreme move and instead made a series of accommodations such as changing their dress and hairstyle while working for brief periods away from home and gradually increasing the length of their absences.

By the early 1980s, changes in Indian ethnic consciousness could be identified in some communities. An increasing number of educated Indians returned to work in their native communities instead of assuming a mestizo identity and moving away. They remained Indian in their loyalty and their ethnic allegiance. The numbers of Indian primary school teachers of Quichua increased, and literacy programs expanded; both trends reinforced Indian identity.

Although these developments were most prominent among prosperous groups such as the Otavalos and the Saraguros, the number of Indians in general moving into "mestizo jobs" increased during the oil expansion. New opportunities gave Indians the option of improving their economic status without sacrificing their ethnic identity. Observers also noted a general growth in ethnic pride coupled with negative reactions toward those Indians who chose to abandon their roots and become mestizos.

Ecuador - Oriente Indians

Although the Indians of the Oriente first came into contact with whites in the sixteenth century, the encounters were more sporadic than those of most of the country's indigenous population. Until the nineteenth century, most non-Indians entering the region were either traders or missionaries. Beginning in the 1950s, however, the government built roads and encouraged settlers from the Sierra to colonize the Amazon River Basin. Virtually all remaining Indians were brought into increasing contact with national society. The interaction between Indians and outsiders had a profound impact on the indigenous way of life.

In the late 1970s, roughly 30,000 Quichua speakers and 15,000 Jívaros lived in Oriente Indian communities. Quichua speakers (sometimes referred to as the Yumbos) grew out of the detribalization of members of many different groups after the Spanish conquest. Subject to the influence of Quichua-speaking missionaries and traders, various elements of the Yumbos adopted the tongue as a lingua franca and gradually lost their previous languages and tribal origins. Yumbos were scattered throughout the Oriente, whereas the Jívaros--subdivided into the Shuar and the Achuar--were concentrated in southeastern Ecuador. Some also lived in northeastern Peru. Traditionally, both groups relied on migration to resolve intracommunity conflict and to limit the ecological damage to the tropical forest caused by slash-and-burn agriculture.

Both the Yumbos and the Jívaros depended on agriculture as their primary means of subsistence. Manioc, the main staple, was grown in conjunction with a wide variety of other fruits and vegetables. Yumbo men also resorted to wage labor to obtain cash for the few purchases deemed necessary. By the mid-1970s, increasing numbers of Quichua speakers settled around some of the towns and missions of the Oriente. Indians themselves had begun to make a distinction between Christian and jungle Indians. The former engaged in trade with townspeople. The Jívaros, in contrast to the Christian Quichua speakers, lived in more remote areas. Their mode of horticulture was similar to that of the non-Christian Yumbos, although they supplemented crop production with hunting and some livestock raising.

Shamans (curanderos) played a pivotal role in social relations in both groups. As the main leaders and the focus of local conflicts, shamans were believed to both cure and kill through magical means. In the 1980s group conflicts between rival shamans still erupted into full-scale feuds with loss of life.

The Oriente Indian population dropped precipitously during the initial period of intensive contact with outsiders. The destruction of their crops by mestizos laying claim to indigenous lands, the rapid exposure to diseases to which Indians lacked immunity, and the extreme social disorganization all contributed to increased mortality and decreased birth rates. One study of the Shuar in the 1950s found that the group between ten and nineteen years of age was smaller than expected. This was the group that had been youngest and most vulnerable during the initial contact with national society. Normal population growth rates began to reestablish themselves after approximately the first decade of such contact.

Increased colonization and oil exploration also displaced the indigenous population, hurt the nutritional status of Indians, and damaged tribal social relations. The Indians' first strategy was to retreat to more remote areas--an option that became less available with increased settlement of the tropical forest. Land pressures also produced a decline in the game available and, hence, in Indian protein levels. Even livestock raising did little to improve Indian diets, since this was done primarily for sale rather than consumption. In addition, the decline in migration opportunities increased tribal hostility and competition between rival shamans.

Critics contended that the government took little effective action to protect Indians. Although the government had designated some land as "indigenous communes" and missionaries had organized some Indians into cooperatives, Indians remained disadvantaged in conflicts with settlers, who had greater familiarity with the national bureaucracy.


Family and kin constituted the most enduring and esteemed institutions in the country's social fabric. Both Indian and Hispanic traditions emphasized the family; indeed, few alternative institutions competed for an individual's loyalty. The family buffered Indians from the vagaries of a hostile world. For the landed gentry, a distinguished family name played a major role in the assignment of status.

As circumstances dictated, a household commonly consisted of a nuclear family--husband and wife with their unmarried children--and one or more members of the wider circle of kin. Couples often resided with the parents of one of the spouses for a period after marriage. Parents typically spent their declining years with the youngest son and his spouse, who remained at home to care for them. Although individuals owed their primary allegiance and responsibility to their families, ties extended outward from this group. The wider circle of kin offered the individual a potential source of assistance and support. Trust and responsibility flowed along the lines of kinship at each level of the social scale.

The Hispanic man served as the unquestioned head of the household and the model of manhood to his sons. Although he might also be a kindly and affectionate parent, he was unlikely to take an active role in the day-to-day functioning of the family. Social tradition granted men the right of independence in their leisure time; many took full advantage of their freedom, spending much time in clubs, coffeehouses, and bars or simply on the street, depending upon the social stratum to which they belonged.

A woman's range of activity, by tradition, rested within the home and that remained true into the 1980s. She managed the household and the day-to-day upbringing of children. Provided she ran the family in a way her husband deemed appropriate, a woman could normally expect considerable autonomy. Even in the more cosmopolitan sectors of the larger cities, the traditional role of the wife and mother remained largely unchanged. Even young women who had high levels of education and a professional career were subordinate to their husbands in a wide variety of matters.

Less stress on the contrasting roles of men and women existed among Sierra Indians. Women's economic role in the household economy demanded that they take the initiative in many matters. Women bore primary responsibility for the health and welfare of the family's members. In addition, the double standard for marital fidelity--tacitly accepted or even lauded in Hispanic culture--was replaced among Indians by a moral code demanding faithfulness on the part of both members.

Family and kin served as a bulwark against the indígena's frequently precarious circumstances. The married couple was the center of a social system extending outward in concentric circles. The couple's parents and their siblings (and the siblings' spouses) formed the primary extended kin group and were bound by strong ties of trust and cooperation. Most marriages took place within the small village or community; generations of intermarriage created a web of reticulate kin ties within the community. The bonds of kinship reinforced cohesion and a sense of shared identity among kin and community members alike.

For all ethnic groups, the range of recognized kin beyond the nuclear family and close relatives varied depending on their economic and social circumstances. Large landowning families of the Sierra derived part of their status and power from their farreaching kinship ties. Families of lower status typically chose which of their kin to recognize and cultivate. Beyond a fairly narrow circle, an individual had an element of choice and activated the relationship through mutual gift giving, shared meals, and reciprocal participation at family and community fiestas.

The strength of kin ties at every level of society often allowed unrelated persons to establish bonds of fictive kinship through the institution of compadrazgo. In Hispanic and Indian traditions alike, compadres (people related through compadrazgo) should manifest the highest regard and loyalty toward one another. Although individuals might criticize and argue with relatives, such actions with compadres would be unthinkable.

The occasions for selecting godparents varied from group to group; Christian Indians and Hispanics commonly choose them at baptism, confirmation, and marriage. In each instance, the godparents assumed ritual and financial obligations to the child (or couple) and the parents involved. In the case of baptism, the tie between the child's godparents and parents persisted even if the child died. Marriage compadres were part of a four-way relationship linking the couple, the compadres, and each spouse's parents. Beyond their immediate responsibilities in the marriage ceremonies, compadres had a duty to take an ongoing interest in the marriage. Great care went into the choice of godparents for every occasion.

Compadrazgo ties cut across class and ethnic boundaries. Indians and mestizos often asked wealthy and influential whites to serve as godparents. In so doing, they established a patron-client relationship with the higher status person. The lower status person expected to receive various forms of assistance; in return, the higher status person gained a loyal follower. For Indians the link with white or mestizo compadres represented one of the few relationships of trust with members of the dominant ethnic group.

People also chose compadres of equal status, selecting distant kin, close friends, business associates, or neighbors to serve as godparents. The advantage in asking neighbors and kin was that the parents knew their reputation and standing in the community more thoroughly than they knew this about the others. Among compadres of equal status, people tried to match the economic resources of the couples involved, so that the reciprocal obligations and gifts between the two families balanced evenly.

Ecuador - RELIGION

The Roman Catholic Church assumed a pivotal role in Ecuador virtually at the onset of the Spanish conquest. Catholicism was a central part of Hispanic culture, defining the ethos and worldview of the time. Through the Office of the Inquisition, the church examined the "purity" of possible officeholders. The church was virtually the only colonial institution dealing with education or the care of the needy. It amassed great wealth through donations, dowries, and outright purchases. Virtually every segment of the organization--the hierarchy, individual clerics, and religious orders--owned some form of assets.

The liberals' ascendancy in 1905 brought a series of drastic limitations to the Roman Catholic Church's privileges. The state admitted representatives of other religions into the country, established a system of public education, and seized most of the church's rural properties. In addition, legislation formally abolished tithes (although many hacienda owners continued to collect them). The 1945 constitution (and the Constitution of 1979) firmly established freedom of religion and the separation of church and state.

Beginning in the 1960s, the country's Catholic bishops became increasingly active in supporting social change. Church leaders organized literacy campaigns among the Indians, distributed the institution's remaining lands, assisted peasants in acquiring land titles, and helped communities form cooperatives. In the 1970s and 1980s, the bishops espoused a centrist position on social and political issues. The episcopate contended that the unjust organization of Ecuadorian society caused many to live in misery. The bishops also claimed that the economic development of the 1970s and early 1980s had merely widened the gap between rich and poor. At the same time, however, Catholics were warned against employing Marxian analyses of society or endorsing violence or class conflict.

Church support for social reform occasionally brought it into conflict with government authorities. In 1976, for example, police arrested Riobamba bishop Leonidas Proaño Villalba--the espiscopate's most outspoken critic of Ecuadorian society and politics--and sixteen other Latin American bishops who were attending a church conference in Chimborazo Province. After accusing the prelates of interfering in Ecuador's internal politics and discussing subversive subjects, the minister of interior released Proaño and expelled the foreign bishops from the country. Some Catholics formed groups to support conservative causes. The Committee of Young Christians for Christian Civilization, for example, advocated scuttling the "confiscatory and anti-Christian" agrarian reform laws.

In 1986 the Roman Catholic Church was organized into three archdioceses, ten dioceses, one territorial prelature, seven apostolic vicariates, and one apostolic prefecture. The church had only 1,505 priests to minister to a Catholic population of slightly more than 8 million, a ratio of 1 priest for every 5,320 Catholics.

Although approximately 94 percent of Ecuadorians were Roman Catholic, most either did not practice their religion or pursued a syncretistic version. Most Sierra Indians, for example, followed a type of folk Catholicism in which doctrinal orthodoxy played only a small part. Indigenous beliefs combined with elements of Catholic worship. Much of community life focused on elaborate fiestas that marked both public and family events. Although the precise configuration of fiestas varied from community to community, in general public fiestas involved an individual in a series of increasingly demanding and expensive sponsorships (cargos) of specific religious celebrations. By the time individuals had completed all the expected cargos, they were recognized community leaders.

The Roman Catholic Church's relatively weak presence in the countryside and in squatter settlements, coupled with the nominal, syncretistic practice of most Catholics, created a fertile ground for Protestant evangelical and Pentecostal missionary activity. Although multidenominational groups such as the Gospel Missionary Union (GMU) had been active in Ecuador since the beginning of the twentieth century, significant levels of conversion did not occur until the late 1960s. By the late 1970s, the GMU reported that it had converted 20,000 Sierra Indians in Chimborazo Province alone. The Christian and Missionary Alliance indicated that conversions among Indians in Otavolo climbed from 28 in 1969 to 900 in 1979. By the mid-1980s, an estimated 50,000 Ecuadorians had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Other significant forces in the Protestant camp included World Vision, an evangelical development group based in California, and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). The Texas-based SIL dispatched linguists to remote areas of Ecuador to study and codify tribal languages. The eventual goal of such efforts was to translate the Bible.

The phenomenal pace of conversion--some observers estimated that evangelicals and Pentecostals totaled 40 percent of the population in Chimborazo Province in the late 1980s--had an impact on social relations in rural areas. Change in religious affiliation was a major rupture with an individual's past traditions and social ties, effectively removing him or her from participation in fiestas--a major focus of much of community life. Families and extended families found the break with the rest of the community easier in the company of fellow converts. Protestantism replaced the patterns of mutual reciprocity characteristic of peasant social relations with a network of sharing and support among fellow believers. This support system extended to migrants; converts who left for the city or the coast sought out their coreligionists for assistance in finding lodging and employment even as Catholics looked to their compadres.

Ecuador - Education

In the late 1980s, formal education was divided into four cycles: a preprimary two-year cycle, six years of primary school, secondary school, which was divided into two three-year cycles, and higher education. Children could begin attending preprimary school at four; primary school began at age six. Attendance theoretically was compulsory for children from six to fourteen years of age. The first three-year cycle of secondary school was a general curriculum that elaborated on that of primary school. In the second cycle, students could specialize in one of several different curriculums. An academic, liberals arts course led to university admission; other specialized courses prepared students for technical schools or teachers' training.

Roughly 20 percent of primary and secondary schools were privately run. The role of private schools increased with grade level; slightly less than 20 percent of primary students and more than 40 percent of secondary students attended private schools. Private education was a predominantly urban phenomena. Approximately one-third of city primary and secondary schools were private.

The country had twelve state universities, equally divided between the Costa and the Sierra, and an additional five private universities--three in the Sierra and two in the Costa. A number of polytechnic schools and teachers' colleges offered specialized postsecondary studies. The number of university students per 100,000 population grew fivefold from 1960 to 1980; the number of professors grew ten times. About two-thirds of those enrolled in higher education attended public institutions, especially the Central University in Quito.

The 1960s and 1970s saw a major expansion in educational opportunities at every level. Spending increased until by 1980 education represented one-third of total government outlays. Enrollments, which had begun to climb in the 1950s, continued their increase. Retention rates at the primary and secondary level also improved.

Expansion created its own set of problems, however. Construction failed to keep up with the increase in students. A significant proportion of teachers lacked full accreditation, especially at the levels of secondary and higher education. These deficiencies were most evident in the countryside where the percentage of uncertified primary teachers was estimated to be double that of the cities. Finally, despite enrollment increases, by the 1980s the percentage of school-aged children attending school lagged. Rates were particularly low for rural primary-school-aged children. Relatively few children continued beyond the first cycle of secondary school.

Illiteracy rates, especially those in the countryside, also remained elevated. The Ministry of Education and Culture, municipal governments, and the military all offered literacy classes. Overall, the programs had limited impact, however; most of the decline in illiteracy came through increased school enrollments. In the 1980s, there were efforts to target literacy programs to the needs of the rural populace and non-Spanish speakers.

Ecuador - Health and Social Security

Both the public and the private sectors provided health services. Most public health care came under the aegis of the Ministry of Public Health, although the armed forces, the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social--IESS), and a number of other autonomous agencies also contributed. The Ministry of Health covered about 80 percent of the population and IESS another 10 percent.

The Ministry of Public Health organized a four-tiered system of health care. Auxiliary health-care personnel staffed posts that served small rural settlements of fewer than 1,500 inhabitants. Health centers staffed with health-care professionals serviced communities of 1,500 to 5,000 inhabitants. Urban centers took care of the larger provincial capitals. Provincial and national hospitals were located in the largest cities. In the early 1980s, there were approximately 2,100 health establishments nationwide; the Ministry of Public Health ran more than half. Both the limited numbers of health-care professionals and their lack of training hampered public health care. These deficiencies were most apparent in regard to medical specialists, technicians, and nurses.

Infant mortality-rate estimates in the early 1980s ranged from 70 to 76 per 1,000 live births, with government projections of 63 per 1,000 live births for the period 1985 to 1990. Although these rates were a significant improvement from the death figure of 140 recorded in 1950, they remained a serious concern. Infant mortality varied significantly by region and socioeconomic status. Surveys in urban areas showed a range of 5 to 108 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, whereas those in rural areas varied from 90 to 200. Intestinal ailments and respiratory diseases (including bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and pneumonia) caused roughly three-fourths of all infant deaths.

Childhood mortality (deaths among one- to four-year olds) dropped to 9 per 1,000 in the mid-1980s following immunization campaigns and some attempts to control diarrheal diseases. Acute respiratory infections represented one-third of all deaths in this age group. Further improvement in the childhood mortality rate demanded extending the immunization program, increasing the availability of oral rehydration therapy, improving nutrition, and controlling respiratory ailments.

Precise, detailed evidence about children's nutritional status remained limited and contradictory. The government conducted a national survey in 1959 and followed this with more limited studies in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the late 1960s, 40 percent of preschool children showed some degree of malnutrition. Among children under 12 years of age, 30 percent were malnourished and 15 percent anemic.

The main causes of death among adults in the mid-1980s were motor vehicle accidents, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, and tuberculosis. Maternal mortality remained high--1.8 per 100,000 live births in the mid-1980s. As with the case of infant mortality, maternal mortality national averages masked considerable regional variation, with the rate nearly three times higher in some areas. These higher percentages reflected the limited access many rural women had to health care. In the early 1980s, more than 40 percent of all pregnancies were not monitored; the majority of births were unattended by modern medical personnel.

A number of tropical diseases concerned health officials. Onchocerciasis (river blindness) was found in a number of small areas; its range was expanding in the mid-1980s. Although Chagas' disease (a parasitic infection) was not prevalent, environmental factors favored its spread. Leishmaniasis (also a parasitic infection) was expanding in the deforested areas of the coast and coastal tropical forest. Malaria was found in 60 percent of the country and became a major focus of public health efforts in the late 1980s. A drop in mosquito control programs coupled with severe flooding in 1981 and 1982 led to an increase in the prevalence of malaria in the mid-1980s. Between 1980 and 1984, the number of reported cases increased ten times. As of 1988, Ecuador also reported forty-five cases of, and twenty-six deaths from, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

The Ecuadorian Social Security Institute, an autonomous agency operating under the Ministry of Social Welfare, offered its members old-age, survivor, and invalidism benefits, sickness and maternity coverage, and work injury and unemployment benefits. In 1982, however, the system covered only approximately 23 percent of the economically active population (21 percent of men and 33 percent of women). Coverage varied widely according to urban or rural residence as well as sex. Urban women had the highest rates of coverage (42 percent), whereas rural men had the lowest (9 percent). Employees in banking, industry, commerce, and government, and self-employed professionals had coverage for most benefits. Agricultural workers were covered for work injury and unemployment benefits and were gradually being included in pension funds and survivors' and death benefits.

Ecuador - The Economy

AS THE 1980S DREW TO A CLOSE, Ecuador remained a lower middleincome nation with a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$9.4 billion, or US$940 per capita. In South America, only Peru, Bolivia, and Guyana had a lower per capita GDP. Agriculture (primarily bananas, coffee, and cacao) and fishing were still important sectors of the economy, together providing 40 percent of export earnings in 1989. Petroleum, the other major export commodity, produced 50 percent of export earnings in the same year. Nevertheless, services, especially trade and financial services, constituted the fastest-growing economic sector and by the end of the 1980s employed almost half of the work force. Manufacturing also played a small but growing role in the economy.

Historically, Ecuador's economy has been characterized by the dichotomy, and sometimes bitter rivalry, between the large-scale, export-oriented agricultural enterprises of the Costa (coastal region) and the smaller farms and businesses of the Sierra (Andean highlands). Unlike many developing countries that have highly centralized infrastructures, Ecuador had two banking, communications, transportation, and trade centers--one in Guayaquil to handle the country's export trade and the other in Quito to serve the populace in the Sierra. Manufacturing was divided also, with Guayaquil leading Quito in output.

The discovery of substantial new petroleum deposits in 1967 spurred economic growth and a shift away from traditional agriculture to manufacturing and services. The government invested much of its petroleum revenue in domestic development programs. The rapid growth years in the 1970s were followed by hardship in the 1980s, however, as petroleum prices fell and the entire economy slumped.

Two administrations in the 1980s tried different approaches to restoring the economy. President León Febres Cordero Ribadeneyra (1984-88) applied free-market principles and deregulation, policies that initially promoted growth. Wage increases and high inflation, however, ultimately erased most gains. President Rodrigo Borja Cevallos (1988- ) replaced the free-market approach with state intervention and imposed an austerity program. His policies resulted in new economic growth, but inflation and unemployment remained at record high levels.

Ecuador's chronically large foreign debt continued to stifle economic growth. Having borrowed heavily during the boom years of the 1970s, the government found itself unable to meet its foreign debt obligations at the end of the 1980s. An earthquake in 1987, which damaged the country's crude petroleum pipeline, further curtailed import earnings. Although by 1989 Ecuador had resumed its foreign debt payments and was again exporting oil, the nation's economic future remained uncertain.


Colonial Ecuador was governed first by the Viceroyalty of Peru and then by the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada. Ecuador differed significantly from the viceroyalty centers (Lima and Bogotá), however, in that mining never became a vital part of the economy. Instead, crop cultivation and livestock raising dominated the economy, especially in the Sierra. The Sierra's temperate climate was ideal for producing barley, wheat, and corn. The Costa became one of the world's leading producers of cacao. Sugarcane, bananas, coconuts, tobacco, and cotton also were grown in the Costa for export purposes. Foreign commerce expanded gradually during the eighteenth century, but agricultural exports remained paramount. Manufacturing never became a significant economic activity in colonial Ecuador, but busy sweatshops, called obrajes, in Riobamba and Latacunga made Ecuador an exporter of woolen and cotton fabrics; a shipyard in Guayaquil was one of the largest and best in Spanish America; and sugar mills manufactured sugar, molasses, and rum made from molasses.

When Ecuador gained complete independence in 1830, it had a largely rural population of about one-half million. The rural economy came to rely on a system of peonage, in which Sierra and Costa Indians were allowed to settle on the lands belonging to the hacendado, to whom they paid rent in the form of labor and a share of their crop. The economy of the new republic, based on the cultivation of cash crops and inexpensive raw materials for the world market and dependent on peonage labor, changed little during the remainder of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. Vulnerable to changing international market demands and price fluctuations, Ecuador's economy was often characterized by instability and malaise.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, cacao production nearly tripled, and total exports increased tenfold. As a result, the Costa became the country's center of economic activity. Guayaquil dominated banking, commercial, and export-import affairs. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, cacao exports continued to be the mainstay of the economy and the principal source of foreign exchange, but other agricultural products like coffee and sugar and fish products were also important exports. The decline of the cacao industry in the 1930s and 1940s, brought about by chronic pestilence and the loss of foreign markets to competitors, had debilitating repercussions for the entire economy. During the 1950s, government-sponsored replanting efforts contributed to a partial revival of the cacao industry, so that by 1958 Ecuador was the world's sixth leading exporter of cacao. Nonetheless, by the early 1950s bananas had replaced cocao as the country's primary export crop.

The Ecuadorian economy made great strides after 1950, when annual exports, 90 percent of which were agricultural, were valued at less than US$30 million, and foreign-exchange reserves stood at about US$15 million. Between 1950 and 1970, a slow, steady expansion of nonagricultural activities took place, especially in the construction, utilities, and services sectors. Construction, for example, made up only 3 percent of the GDP in 1950, but it contributed 7.6 percent to the GDP in 1971. Agriculture's annual share of the GDP was 38.8 percent in 1950 compared with a 24.7 percent share in 1971.

The 1960s saw an acceleration and diversification of the manufacturing sector to meet domestic demand, with an emphasis on intermediate inputs and consumer durable goods. By 1971 these accounted for about 50 percent of industrial output. Still, manufactured products--mainly processed agricultural goods--made up only about 10 percent of Ecuador's exports in 1971. Industry was still at an early stage of development, and about 50 percent of the labor force worked in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Traditional industries, such as food processing, beverages, and textiles, were largely dependent on agriculture. The small size of the domestic market, the high production cost in relation to available external markets, and an undeveloped human, physical, and financial infrastructure all combined to limit the expansion of consumer durable goods in the Ecuadorian economy.

The discovery of new petroleum fields in the Oriente (eastern region) after 1967 transformed the country into a world producer of oil and brought large increases in government revenue beginning in 1972. That year saw the completion of the Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline, a 503-kilometer-long oil pipeline leading from the Oriente to the port city of Esmeraldas. A refinery also was constructed just south of Esmeraldas. In addition, in 1970 large quantities of natural gas deposits were discovered in the Gulf of Guayaquil. Largely because of petroleum exports, Ecuador's net foreignexchange earnings climbed from US$43 million in 1971 to over US$350 million in 1974.

The production and export of oil that began in the early 1970s, coupled with dramatic international price increases for petroleum, contributed significantly to unprecedented economic growth. Real GDP increased by an average of more than 9 percent per year during 1970 to 1977 as compared with only 5.9 percent from 1960 to 1970. The manufacturing sector alone experienced a 12.9 percent average annual GDP real growth rate during 1975-77. Ecuador became a lower middle-income country, although it remained one of the poorer countries of South America. Economic growth had negative side effects, however. Real imports increased by an annual average of 7 percent between 1974 and 1979; this spawned an inflationary pattern that eroded income. During the same period, the country's external debt grew from US$324 million to about US$4.5 billion.


The Constitution reserves to the state the sole right to exploit natural resources and to create and maintain the basic national economic infrastructure. The central government traditionally handled this responsibility through a decentralized approach to economic development. Over the decades, the government formed numerous autonomous or independent agencies in an ad hoc fashion to perform public services or develop natural resources. Some of these independent enterprises became large and powerful and functioned largely beyond government control or monitoring.

Mismanagement and inefficiencies characterized many independent agencies. PETROECUADOR, for example, the largest and perhaps most important state-owned enterprise, which was responsible for much of Ecuador's petroleum production and refining, was not required to pay dividends or to meet established performance standards. Because it had no control over oil-generated income, PETROECUADOR lacked the incentive to keep production costs down or to improve efficiency. The Ecuadorian Institute of Electrification (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Electrificación--Inecel), which was founded in 1961 under the auspices of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, was unable to coordinate its major departments, or to set the rates charged to electricity consumers. As a result, Inecel relied on the government to meet operating costs. The Ecuadorian Institute of Telecommunications (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Telecomunicaciones-- Ietel), established in 1972 and attached to the Ministry of Public Works and Communications, suffered from poor internal organization and weak financial management.

The government's highly bureaucratic and decentralized approach to economic development thus served as a disincentive to entrepreneurs, who were forced to battle an array of regulations controlling business and commerce. Cumbersome administrative procedures often resulted in protracted and costly delays in such fundamental activities as procurement, business registration, and trade transactions.

Ecuador - THE ECONOMY - Fiscal Policies

The Ecuadorian public sector, comprising the central government, state enterprises, and autonomous agencies operating on a national scale, expanded rapidly during 1972-77. Public-sector expenditures, adjusted for an average annual inflation rate of 14 percent, swelled about 65 percent during this period. Such increases were made possible because of the boost in revenue derived from a rise in international oil prices and the expansion of oil exports, especially during the 1972-74 period, when petroleum revenues rose as a proportion of GDP from 2 percent to 8.4 percent. Meanwhile, revenues from nonpetroleum commodity exports declined from 18.7 percent of GDP in 1972 to 13.8 percent in 1975. In effect, the government substituted the taxation of oil for the taxation of other traditional products.

This policy caused no harm until 1975, when the volume of petroleum exports began to moderate and oil revenues declined relative to GDP. As the gap between public revenues and expenditures widened, budget deficits became the norm, and the government resorted increasingly to foreign borrowing as a substitute for declining tax revenues from nonoil products. Between 1976 and 1979, the foreign debt more than quadrupled; after 1979 the rate of borrowing decelerated, but still the foreign debt had doubled by the end of 1986. In 1983, as foreign banks reduced the amount of credit available to the government, unpopular austerity measures were adopted to help reduce the public-sector deficit.

The oil bonanza encouraged the government to undertake two deficit-producing policies. First, the government used about 50 percent of total public revenues from oil exports to subsidize domestic consumption of such items as food products, electricity, and gasoline and other oil derivatives. Government subsidies to consumers reached a peak of 10 percent of GDP in 1981. Second, the government increased substantially its public-sector employment and public capital expenditures. Although the labor force increased at an average annual rate of only 2.8 percent between 1970 and 1984, public-service employment rose at an average annual rate of 7 percent during the same period. A moderate expansion in public capital expenditures during the 1974-82 period contributed to improvements in the transportation and utility infrastructure and also in water and sewerage systems. During this period, public capital spending increased from 7.3 percent of GDP to 10.1 percent of GDP. Overall government revenue, however, had declined by 1 percent of GDP between 1973 and 1982. The public-sector deficit in 1982 represented 7.5 percent of GDP, most of which was financed by foreign borrowing.

The sharp drop in the international price of petroleum in 1986, followed a year later by a US$700-million loss of oil revenue in the aftermath of the March 1987 earthquake, generated increased foreign borrowing by the government, reduced debt-service payments, and induced the government to print money to make up for revenue shortfalls. To help keep inflation down to 32.5 percent in 1987 (about a 5-percent increase over 1986), liquidity was restricted in the private sector by raising bank reserve requirements. This policy made it difficult to acquire a commercial loan during the second half of 1987.

Although oil production reached near-record levels of 310,000 barrels per day following the repair of the Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline in August 1987, international crude oil prices remained low, averaging about US$17.70 for that year. The government's failure to raise domestic energy prices or reduce spending in other areas contributed to a fiscal deficit approaching 12 percent of GDP.

Real GDP improved 8 percent in 1988, mainly as the result of increases in crude petroleum exports. The government's deficit reached about 12 percent of GDP. The government controlled the fiscal deficit by doubling domestic fuel prices, eliminating wheat import subsidies, and increasing electricity rates by 40 percent for household users and 60 percent for industrial users.

In 1989 the fiscal budget totalled US$1.4 billion, of which 49 percent was financed by oil export revenues and most of the remainder through taxes. About 38 percent of expenditures went to meet foreign debt payments after April, 10 percent for internal investment, and the balance to meet internal debt payments and current government expenditures. During 1989 the Borja administration accelerated efforts to curtail public spending, but the deficit, 10 percent of GDP, was still too high to be fiscally sound. The government continued its tight money policies, sustaining high interest rates and strict credit requirements, especially for noncorporate consumers.

Ecuador - THE ECONOMY - Government Budget Process

Ecuador had a complex and splintered budget process. Only about 65 percent of tax revenues were dedicated to financing the national budget. The remainder were earmarked for direct and automatic allocation to autonomous agencies, state enterprises, and local governments on a predetermined basis. Despite tax reform efforts in the 1980s, several funds continued outside the regular budget process. About 5 percent of income, for example, was designated for revenue sharing with 100 municipalities and 20 provincial governments. This system, which did not require recipients to justify their need for the automatically appropriated sums, reduced the amount of economic planning and fiscal control that could be exercised by policy makers. Not only did recipient agencies and local governments lack the incentive to be frugal, but the central government was left with inadequate funds to begin new programs or establish new agencies as needed.

With the national budget, preparations for current and for capital expenditures were each handled differently. The Ministry of Finance and Credit established current expenditures based on actual budgets from the previous year, allowing for increases needed to offset inflation. The National Development Council (Consejo Nacional de Desarrollo--Conade) formulated a budget proposal for all capital expenditures relying on project requests from public agencies, which was sent to the Ministry of Finance and Credit; a national budget plan was then drafted at the ministry and forwarded to the National Congress (Congreso Nacional--hereafter, Congress).

Authorization for both current and capital expenditures was complete when Congress passed the budget plan, but disbursements against authorizations were at the discretion of the Treasury. The Constitution requires each budget to be balanced, but throughout the 1980s deficits were the norm.

In 1987, of total government revenues, 65 percent was derived from taxes on income and capital gains, 13.7 percent from domestic taxes on goods and services, 17.3 percent from taxes on international trade and transactions, 2 percent from other taxes, and 2 percent from nontax revenues. Total revenues for that year represented about 18.5 percent of Ecuador's gross national product (GNP).

During the same year, of total government expenditures, 11.8 percent was earmarked for the military, 24.5 percent for education, 7.3 percent for health, 0.9 percent for housing and social security, 19.8 percent for economic services, and 35.7 percent for other purposes. Total expenditures represented 16.3 percent of GNP; the overall budget deficit represented 2.1 percent of GNP.


Composition of Labor Force

In 1987 about 3.3 million people, or 33 percent of Ecuador's total population, were estimated to be economically active. The economically active population was almost evenly divided between the self-employed and wage earners. Agriculture remained the largest employer in 1987, but the previous fifteen years had seen the total percentage of the work force employed in this sector drop from almost half (46 percent) to just slightly over a third (35 percent). The service sector experienced the largest growth, with the percentage of the work force employed in government and other services rising from 17 to 24 percent from 1974 to 1987. Manufacturing and commerce each employed about 10 percent of the economically active populace in 1987.

Although the percentage of the economically active population employed in manufacturing declined from 12 percent in 1974 to 11 percent in 1987, the percentage engaged in commerce rose from 10 percent to 12 percent over the same period. Artisan manufacturing, defined as firms employing up to thirteen workers, declined compared with larger-scale factory manufacturing. Employment in manufacturing also shifted to larger urban areas; in the late 1980s, over half of the labor force engaged in manufacturing was in the provinces that included Quito and Guayaquil.

In the late 1980s, analysts estimated the median age for the total labor force to be slightly under thirty. When broken down by sex, however, data showed that women in the work force tended to be younger. The median age for men alone was over thirty. Other employment statistics broken down by gender revealed a higher ratio of women employed in urban areas, whereas men had higher percentages of employment in rural districts.

Ecuador - Employment Indicators and Benefits

Figures for unemployment and underemployment varied and were considered unreliable, but analysts agreed that both problems increased during the 1980s. Unemployment in urban areas was officially estimated at 10.2 percent in 1987, up from about 6 percent in 1975. According to government statistics, underemployment climbed from 25 percent in 1975 to 40 to 50 percent in 1987. Underemployment in rural areas was particularly high and had proven an intractable problem.

The government set minimum wages and increased them frequently to keep abreast of inflation and devaluations of the currency. Minimum wages alone, however, did not accurately represent economic conditions of the average worker because Ecuadorian labor enjoyed an extensive system of mandatory fringe benefits. For example, the average wage earner was entitled to a yearly bonus equal to three months of his or her basic monthly wage and to a monthly cost-of- living and transportation allowance. Paid vacations, overtime pay, and severance pay were all obligatory. These and other supplements could raise a wage earner's average monthly income by as much as 70 percent over his or her basic wage. Workers also benefited from legislation making it difficult to fire employees.

Ecuador - Organized Labor

Because of the government's strong regulation of the economy and direct control over wages and prices, organized labor directed its challenges against the government rather than against the private sector. Even disputes between labor and government, however, lacked the acrimony or frequency found elsewhere in Latin America, largely because a succession of populist governments curried favor with low-income groups by conceding economic benefits and expanded worker rights. With little struggle, workers gained the right to organize, to strike and bargain collectively, to withhold union dues from paychecks, to work a forty-hour week, and to receive minimum wage and social security benefits. Thus, while the legal framework favored union development, government endorsement of benefits undercut the power of union leadership. High underemployment and rising unemployment in the 1980s also moderated aggressive bargaining.

Labor-government relations became more strained during the Febres Cordero presidency, however, because of that administration's free-market philosophy. Labor called two national strikes in 1987, a one-day stoppage on March 25 to protest rises in gasoline and transportation prices and a second strike on October 28 to demand the ouster of the minister of government and justice. The first stoppage was highly successful and showed an unprecedented degree of unity among Ecuador's divergent labor groups. The second, more political in nature instead of being focused on monetary issues, had much less impact on national activity.

In contrast to growing tension between organized labor and government, the number of conflicts and strikes centered on collective bargaining issues with the private sector declined during the 1980s. Analysts attributed the decline to the increasing reluctance of the average worker to risk his or her job in the face of rising unemployment and a deteriorating economy. The most serious strikes during this period involved work stoppages by public-sector employees, usually teachers or university personnel. Short strikes by petroleum workers and employees of the state electric utility also occurred.


Agriculture and fishing were the country's largest employers in the late 1980s, providing nearly half of all export earnings. Including livestock raising, forestry, and fishing, agriculture generated almost 16 percent of the GDP in 1986 and nearly 18 percent in 1987. The three principal export crops--bananas, coffee, and cocoa--alone accounted for 2.4 percent of the total GDP in 1986, while livestock raising contributed 5.3 percent of the GDP, and forestry and fishing contributed 1.1 and 1.9 percent, respectively.

Land Use and Tenure

Data on land use varied widely and were often considered by analysts as unreliable or at best an approximation of actual numbers. In the mid-1980s, for example, estimates of cropland ranged from 1.6 to 2.5 million hectares out of the total land area of 27.1 million hectares. Different sources put the amount of pastureland at 4.4 or 4.8 million hectares. Estimates for the total land area suitable for agriculture showed an even wider variation, from less than 50 percent to as high as 90 percent. Over half of the cultivated land was in the Costa (coastal region), about a third in the Sierra, and the remainder dispersed throughout the Oriente region. The Costa, with the exception of the area near the Santa Elena Peninsula, had generally fertile land with a climate conducive to agriculture. Altitude, rainfall, and soil composition determined land use in the Sierra. The intermontane basins near Quito and farther south near Cuenca and Loja offered the most productive Sierra lands, whereas the basins surrounding Latacunga and Riobamba had dry and porous soil and the least fertile lands. Higher areas of the Sierra contained grasslands suitable only for grazing or cold-tolerant crops, such as potatoes.

Modern land tenure patterns developed from Spanish colonial land systems. The Spanish encountered large native populations in the Sierra and established the encomienda system whereby the crown granted individual colonists rights to land and the Indians who lived there. This system gradually produced haciendas worked by a "captive" labor force composed of huasipungueros. These huasipungueros worked without salary in return for the farming rights to minifundios (small plots) on the haciendas. In many cases, the huasipungueros were bought or sold with the hacienda. Large-scale agriculture developed later in the Costa, where farming for export used sharecroppers or paid labor to harvest crops. The monetary labor system that developed in the Costa began to compete with the feudal system of the Sierra for cheap labor.

Pressure to reform feudal agricultural practices came from abroad, from humanitarian and liberal elements within the country, and from large landowners in the Costa, who needed additional cheap labor. A land reform law enacted in 1964, the Land Reform, Idle Lands, and Settlement Act, outlawed the huasipungo system and also set up the Ecuadorian Institute of Agrarian Reform and Settlement (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Reforma Agraria y Colonización--IERAC) to administer the law and to expropriate idle arable land for redistribution to farmers. The law outlawed absentee ownership and limited the size of holdings to 800 hectares of arable land in the Sierra, 2,500 hectares of arable land in the Costa, and 1,000 hectares of pastureland in either region. The law also set the minimum amount of land to be granted in the redistribution at 4.8 hectares. Revisions of the law in the early 1970s required that all land with absentee landlords be sold to the tenants and that squatters be permitted to acquire title to land they had worked for three years.

Although IERAC made some progress initially, political opposition slowed implementation of the land reform act. IERAC received little government funding and was not permitted to actively encourage expropriation. Later amendments to the land reform act exempted all farms that were efficiently run. In addition, redistributed land was frequently poor or on mountainsides because the large landowners kept fertile valley lands for themselves. Except for a few showcase examples, farmers on minifundios received no government assistance or services to make the plots productive. In spite of these difficulties, however, by 1984 over 700,000 hectares had been distributed to 79,000 peasants.

Distribution of the land remained highly unequal. In 1982, 80 percent of the farms consisted of less than ten hectares; yet these small farms accounted for only 15 percent of the farmland. Five percent of the farms had more than fifty hectares, but these large farms represented over 55 percent of the land under cultivation. In addition, minifundios were more likely to be found in the Sierra in areas of poor soil or with poorer growing conditions than in other areas.

Agricultural censuses revealed that over three-quarters of the farms were worked by their owners. About 12 percent of the farms were occupied by families that did not hold title to the land but rented it, sometimes hiring additional laborers. Sharecroppers or communal farmers cultivated the remaining 7 percent.

Although intensely cultivated, minifundios in the Sierra could not sustain the region's occupants. Because of the higher wages for nonagricultural jobs, many farmers held unskilled jobs in the cities while family members stayed on the land to grow crops for home use or for sale. A study in the late 1970s indicated that over half of small farm earnings came from off the farm.

Patterns of cultivation ranged from primitive to modern, with the more modern methods generally used in the Costa, where much of the production was geared for export. In 1982 Ecuador had fewer than 7,000 tractors in use. Ox-drawn plows were used on some farms, and digging sticks were used for cultivation on slopes. High prices limited the use of chemicals; manure was the common form of fertilizer in the Sierra, but farmers had increased the use of pesticides and fungicides.

Sizeable areas of land, estimated at over 320,000 hectares, were under irrigation using ditches dug by individual farmers, and about 40,000 hectares were irrigated under government-supported irrigation projects. State support for irrigation schemes began in 1944 with the creation of the Ecuadorian Institute of Hydraulic Resources (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Recursos Hidráulicos--Inerhi). Inerhi's largest project, inaugurated in 1970, brought water to 10,000 hectares of land in Pichincha Province.

<>Livestock and Poultry

Ecuador - Crops

A variety of temperature and rainfall patterns resulted in a diversity of tropical and temperate crops. Moderate or cool temperatures in highland areas allowed the cultivation of products usually associated with more northern latitudes. In the Costa, a warm climate, fertile soils, and proximity to ports led to large-scale production of such export crops as coffee, bananas, sugar, cacao, palm oil, and rice. Smaller plots in the Sierra produced potatoes, corn, beans, wheat, barley, and tea. Larger farms practiced dairy farming as well as increasing production of nontraditional crops such as cut flowers, asparagus, and snow peas. Farmers planted some coffee and tea in transition areas between the Sierra and the Oriente, but in general the Oriente's poor soil made it badly suited to agriculture.

Ecuador began marketing bananas abroad after World War II. By 1947 bananas had become the country's leading export crop. Capitalizing on problems with hurricanes, disease, and labor unrest in the traditional banana-growing regions of Central America, Ecuador emerged as the world's largest exporter of bananas by the mid-1980s. The main banana-producing areas were the eastern parts of Los Ríos, Guayas, and especially El Oro provinces. Banana production involved few very large or very small plantations; most ranged from 80 to 120 hectares.

In 1969 the Ecuadorian National Board of Planning and Economic Coordination recommended that land devoted to banana cultivation be more than halved and that the higher yielding, disease-resistant Cavendish-type bananas replace the traditional Gros Michel variety. This latter change prompted modifications in production patterns. Cavendish bananas bruised easily and required more careful handling. In addition, they could not tolerate transport in open trucks, so boxing had to take place at the plantation. Centralized, specialized packing meant the end of small-farm production. Since the new variety had triple the yield of the Gros Michel banana, the government realized that the hectares planted in bananas needed to be reduced to avoid a sharp drop in world prices. Statistics showed the change: land devoted to bananas dropped from 200,000 hectares in 1972 to about 110,000 in 1980, yet production remained fairly constant. In 1987, 2.4 million tons of bananas were produced on 120,000 hectares of land; 1.4 million tons were exported.

Coffee, introduced into the country early in the nineteenth century, was the second most valuable crop throughout the 1980s. Ecuador produced both arabica and robusta varieties, with over half of the plantings in the hilly areas of Manabí Province; most of the remaining plantings were found in the western foothills of the Andes south of Guayaquil. In 1987 over 380,000 hectares were devoted to coffee, and 373,000 tons were produced. Most of this coffee was exported. Coffee was generally grown on small landholdings with about half the land planted in coffee trees alone and the rest planted with coffee trees mixed with cacao, citrus fruits, bananas, or mangoes.

The small size of typical coffee farms usually resulted in poor production techniques, yields, and quality. Much of the coffee produced retained the pulp after processing and therefore brought a lower price on world markets. Other than establishing minimum prices for coffee, the government provided little technical assistance to coffee farmers.

Cacao was the mainstay of the economy in colonial times. The Spanish found the Indians cultivating cacao when they arrived in the sixteenth century, and it first became an export crop in 1740. Produced on large Costa plantations, the crop was nearly wiped out by a fungal disease in the 1920s. Low world prices during the Great Depression further discouraged production, and the plantations were broken up and diversified into rice, sugar, corn, and bananas. After World War II, increased prices and new disease-resistant strains revitalized the industry.

Most cacao production took place on small farms, frequently only to provide supplemental income to the farmer. Most small producers preferred traditional cultivation techniques and did not harvest the beans in years when the price was low. In contrast, the few large plantation owners systematically replaced older trees with newer disease-resistant varieties and used fertilizer to increase yields. Most cacao farmers grew an aromatic variety used for flavoring. In 1987, 311,000 hectares were planted in cacao, producing 57,000 tons of cocoa beans. Sugarcane was grown widely, both in the Sierra and in the Costa. Over 44,000 hectares were planted in 1987, producing 3 million tons of sugarcane. The sugar extraction rate from the cane was about 10 kilograms of sugar from 100 kilograms of cane. Sugar was an important export crop in the 1960s and 1970s, but production levels dropped in the 1980s, and the supply could not satisfy the domestic market, so that Ecuador had to import refined sugar. Almost all of the sugarcane grown in the Costa was used to make centrifugal sugar, so called because of the means of extracting the sugar. Centrifugal sugar was the type most used in foreign trade. Sugarcane in the Costa was grown on large plantations and processed in one of the five mills located east of Guayaquil. Sierra peasants grew sugarcane on small landholdings and used much of the cane for noncentrifugal sugar, mainly in a form known as panela (a raw brown-sugar cake). Growers also marketed molasses, a sugarcane by-product, exporting some of it and using the rest for the domestic manufacture of alcohol or for livestock feed.

Farmers cultivated rice, a staple of the Ecuadorian diet, mainly on the flood plains of the Guayas River Basin in Guayas and Los Ríos provinces. Rice production fluctuated depending upon the weather, but during the 1980s the harvest increased by an annual average of 7 percent. In 1987, 780,000 tons were produced on 276,000 hectares of land. In years of good harvest, growers produced enough rice to meet domestic demand and to export a surplus. Because of low international market prices for rice, however, the government policy stabilized rice production at the level required to meet domestic needs.

Corn, another basic foodstuff, had been grown since precolonial times. Corn was widely grown throughout the country and could be planted from sea level to an altitude of 2,200 meters. Farmers used about half the crop for animal feed, particularly for poultry. In 1987 over 422,000 tons were produced on 460,000 hectares.

Barley, a crop introduced by the Spaniards, proved highly adaptable to the rigorous climate of the Sierra. Its tolerance for cold and severe weather allowed it to be grown at higher altitudes than corn. Widely planted on small landholdings in the central highlands areas, it was grown both for food and for malt for the beer industry. Figures for 1987 showed 43,000 tons produced on 61,000 hectares.

Wheat, almost all of which was used to make bread, was formerly widely grown in the Sierra. Ironically, however, as bread increased in popularity and replaced potatoes and corn as a dietary staple, domestic wheat production decreased. Perhaps the most significant reason was that the government introduced subsidies on wheat imports in order to ease the effects of the inflation that began in the oil-boom years of the 1970s. As a result, consumption of the more expensive domestic wheat declined from 46 percent in 1946 to 7 percent in 1980. The breakup of the large wheat-producing haciendas in the Sierra also contributed to lower levels of wheat production.

Cotton and hemp were the principal fiber crops. The government carried out a program in the 1980s to increase both the quality and quantity of cotton produced. Output increased, and by 1986 Ecuador was nearly self-sufficient in cotton. Hemp was turned into Manila hemp fiber used to produce tea bags. Lesser fiber crops included aloe, which was used to make cloth for sacks, and ramie, which was woven into a cloth resembling linen.

Tea was produced near Puyo on the eastern slopes of the Andes at elevations of about 1,000 meters. An even distribution of rainfall allowed for year-round harvests, a condition not usually found in tea-producing nations.

African palms were widely planted and were the main source of vegetable oil. The government promoted and financed large plantings to cut imports of expensive cooking oils. Although not as high in oil content as the nuts of the royal palm, previously the principal domestic source of vegetable oil, African palms bore more nuts and matured more quickly.

Cottonseed, sesame seed, peanuts, coconuts, and soybeans were other sources of vegetable oils. Cottonseed production fluctuated, depending upon weather conditions. Sesame could be planted from two to three times a year on the warm coastal plains where it took only three months to mature. About 9,000 hectares of peanuts were planted, but most of the production was used for direct consumption as peanuts rather than for crushing into oil. Production of coconut oil varied because most coconuts were consumed directly and not processed. Soybean plantings had increased, and soybeans could be grown both in the Costa and lower reaches of the Sierra.

Ecuador was one of the world's major castor bean producers. Although the bean was inedible, its oil was used for medicinal purposes and as a lubricant in precision tools. The plant could be grown on dry lands where it was uneconomical to raise other crops, or planted along with corn, peanuts, or cotton.

Black tobacco, Ecuador's traditional type, made up the bulk of the 3,600 tons grown in 1987. Blond tobacco for cigarettes was introduced in the late 1960s and was produced mainly in Loja Province. The growth of a domestic cigarette industry was slowed, however, by the high volume of cigarettes smuggled into the country.

Farmers also grew numerous minor crops for domestic food consumption or for export in small quantities. Growers raised pears, peaches, apples, berries, grapes, and plums in the Sierra and citrus fruit, avocados, mangoes, and a wide variety of tropical fruits in the Costa. Important vegetable crops included garlic, onions, cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and various types of melons and peppers. Spices included annatto seed, anise, and cardamon. Rubber and mocora and toquilla grass, used to make Panama hats, were minor nonfood crops.

Ecuador - Livestock and Poultry

Livestock raising represented an important part of agricultural output and grew significantly throughout the 1980s. Livestock was produced primarily for domestic consumption and was one of the few agricultural products found throughout the country. Although animal husbandry was widespread, it was generally practiced on small plots of land.

The Costa and Oriente produced mainly beef cattle with dairy cattle found mostly in the Sierra. Cattle were grazed on Costa land otherwise unsuited for agriculture, such as the hilly terrain in Manabí Province, seasonally flooded river plains, or semiarid parts of the far south. Dairy production in the Sierra typically was carried on in fertile valleys, particularly between Riobamba and the Colombian border. Beef cattle were fairly new to the Oriente, although large parcels of land were suitable for grazing. The beef industry in the Oriente suffered a serious setback in 1987, however, when the earthquake damaged roads used to transport the beef to markets. Ecuador had about 3.7 million head of beef cattle in 1986.

The 1980s saw an improvement in stock with the introduction of European and Asian breeds. The native criollo breed represented about half of all cattle, with the rest a cross between criollo and Holstein, Brown Swiss, or Jersey for dairy, and criollo and Santa Gertrudis or Charolais for beef. The absence of veterinarians and medicines remained a problem, however, and diseases and parasites plagued many herds.

Besides cattle, livestock included pigs, sheep, and a small number of goats. The number of pigs increased dramatically in the 1980s to about 5 million in 1986; they were raised nationwide but the greatest concentration was in coastal areas. Sheep numbered 2 million in 1986 and were generally found in pastureland higher than 3,000 meters in altitude. Analysts estimated that Ecuador had fewer than 300,000 goats in 1986.

Poultry raising was another rapid-growth area in the 1980s, although floods in 1983 from El Niño caused a sharp drop in production. Chickens were raised both for eggs and for meat, and in 1986 there were more than 45 million birds. Historically, peasant families raised chickens, but the 1980s saw the establishment of large-scale poultry enterprises near larger cities.

Ecuador - Fishing

The Pacific waters along the coast and as far west as the Galápagos Islands had abundant and varied fish resources. The importance of marine resources to the economy increased steadily, and fisheries were one of the faster-growing industries in the 1980s, as both export sales and domestic consumption increased.

Tuna represented the most important of the many varieties of saltwater fish. Most of the tuna caught was skipjack or albacore, although the yellowfin was the variety most often exported. Ecuador modernized its tuna fleet in the late 1980s with the addition of refrigerated vessels and the leasing of several large seiners (nets) from the United States.

Shrimp production was the strongest growth area in the fishing industry. Although ocean shrimping declined, Ecuador's warm climate and shallow coastal waters, especially in the Gulf of Guayaquil, provided ideal conditions for shrimp farming. In 1986 Ecuador overtook Mexico as the world's largest shrimp exporter. Other important fish included sardines, anchovies, and mackerel. Most of the anchovies and sardines were canned for the export market, with the remainder ground into fishmeal for poultry feed. Except for a few trout hatcheries in the Sierra, the country gave little attention to freshwater fish.

Ecuador - Forestry

An estimated 50 percent of Ecuador (about 14 million hectares) was forested, about half of this in government-owned lands. Although officially contributing only 4 percent to Ecuador's GDP, the forest resources were important because of wood's wide use for fuel and rural construction. Erosion and deforestation from widespread cutting of timber for fuel had emerged as significant national problems in the 1980s.

The original forests in the Sierra had long ago been cleared to provide space for pastures and wood for fuel and construction. Eucalyptus trees introduced from Australia in the 1800s supplied the Sierra with fuel and construction material and helped prevent soil erosion. In the 1980s, the northern province of Esmeraldas contained most of the forests in the Costa and supplied the majority of the country's wood. The jungles of the Oriente contained several thousand known species of trees, the most valuable of which was the balsa. Isolation from population centers and lack of roads hampered exploitation of the Oriente's resources, however. Other forest products included cinchona bark for quinine, ivory palm nuts for buttons, and kapok from the ceiba tree for mattress stuffing.


The natural resource sector of the Ecuadorian economy contributed almost 15 percent to the GDP in 1986, with the petroleum industry providing virtually all of that total. Although analysts believed that Ecuador had numerous mineral deposits, few metals had been exploited. Hydroelectric power from several large dams provided the primary source of energy. Petroleum and Natural Gas

Petroleum was the single most important element in the Ecuadorian economy, accounting for over 14 percent of the GDP in 1986, two-thirds of all export revenues in that year, and much of the foreign investment. In 1987 petroleum and mining together accounted for only about 8 percent of GDP because of a significant drop in petroleum production, but estimates for 1988 indicated that petroleum production had risen, exceeding its 1986 level. Although Ecuador's level of production in the late 1980s ranked near the bottom of the thirteen members of OPEC, it exceeded all countries in Latin America except Mexico and Venezuela.

Petroleum was first discovered in the early 1900s both on and offshore from Salinas on the Santa Elena Peninsula west of Guayaquil. More than 100 million barrels of crude petroleum were removed in six decades of exploitation; by the mid-1980s, however, Costa production had fallen to less than 1,000 barrels per day (bd). Old, expensive-to-maintain equipment produced high operating costs, making continued exploitation uncertain.

The Oriente, however, had long since eclipsed the Costa as the center of Ecuador's petroleum activity. In the late 1980s, the vast majority of Ecuador's 1.6 million barrels of proven reserves lay in the northern part of the Oriente, between the Napo River and the Colombian border. This area formed part of a rich oil-bearing region extending from southern Colombia through Ecuador and northeastern Peru. Indeed, analysts believed that this region represented one of the richest oil-bearing areas of the Western Hemisphere.

Although exploration in the Oriente began in the 1920s, petroleum was not actually found until a consortium formed by the Texaco Petroleum and Gulf Oil companies discovered several rich fields near Lago Agrio (now Nueva Loja) in 1967. The success of the Texaco-Gulf exploration attracted other companies, and over the next two decades more than fifty new wells began producing commercial quantities of crude petroleum. Production in 1989 had risen to over 1.1 billion barrels, over 99 percent from the Oriente fields.

Ecuador built the 503-kilometer Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline to carry crude petroleum from the Oriente fields across the Andes to a new refinery just south of Esmeraldas. Although the pipeline was designed to carry as much as 400,000 bd, volume averaged just over 300,000 bd in the late 1980s. A landslide caused by a severe earthquake in March 1987 destroyed forty kilometers of an aboveground section east of Quito. To keep exports from stopping completely, Ecuador quickly constructed a thirty-eight-kilometer spur from the Oriente fields to Colombia's pipeline. Oil was then either exported directly as crude from Colombian ports or taken by tanker from Colombia to Ecuador's largest refinery at Esmeraldas. Although this stopgap measure allowed for some petroleum to be exported, production at the Oriente fields had to be trimmed by more than half for the five months it took to repair the TransEcuadorian Pipeline.

Unlike many of the larger OPEC countries, Ecuador refined less than half of the petroleum it produced. Most of the country's 123,000 bd refining capacity was located at two refinery complexes, one at Esmeraldas and a complex of three refineries at the Santa Elena oil fields. The Esmeraldas refinery had a 90,000 bd capacity, whereas the three older Santa Elena refineries had a combined output of 32,000 bd. Ecuador's newest refinery, completed in 1987 near Nueva Loja in the Oriente fields, had a capacity of 1,000 bd.

Control and ownership of petroleum production and refining was held by foreign oil companies, the government-owned PETROECUADOR which replaced the former Ecuadorian State Petroleum Corporation (Corporación Estatal Petrolera Ecuatoriana--CEPE), or consortia composed of both. PETROECUADOR assumed complete control of the Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline in 1989 and announced it would take over most other foreign interest in the petroleum industry in the early 1990s.

In addition to abundant supplies of petroleum, observers estimated that the country had natural gas reserves in the Oriente and offshore in the Gulf of Guayaquil totalling 400 billion cubic meters. Reserves in the Oriente were collocated with petroleum deposits. Producers flared most of the gas associated with petroleum drilling, using only small amounts as fuel. Distance from markets made exploitation of the gas uneconomical, although a small plant to harness the gas as a fuel was completed near Nueva Loja in the mid-1980s. Reserves in the Gulf of Guayaquil, thought to be among the largest in Latin America, remained unexploited because of an uncertain domestic market for natural gas and a legal dispute between the government and foreign companies over ownership.

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<>Electric Power

Ecuador - Mining and Minerals

Mining played a small role in the economy in the 1980s, contributing only 0.7 percent to the GDP in 1986 and employing about 7,000 persons. Inaccessibility of the regions where minerals were located and the incomplete exploration of resources hampered mining activities. Although observers believed that Ecuador had reserves of gold, silver, copper, zinc, uranium, lead, sulfur, and kaolin, as well as limestone, the latter dominated the industry. Miners generally produced limestone in many small operations countrywide and used it in local cement plants.

Gold, largely forgotten since its early exploitation in the sixteenth century, grew in importance in the 1980s; by 1987 Ecuador was exporting 2.4 tons per year. The southern Sierra region held the country's largest deposits; the newest veins were discovered in the southeastern province of Zamora-Chinchipe.

In 1985 Congress passed a new law to encourage foreign exploration and investment in the mining industry. Designed to simplify regulation of the industry, this legislation also offered higher financial incentives for the investor and lower overall taxation and established the Ecuadorian Institute of Minerals (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Minería--Inemin) under the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Ecuador - Electric Power

The period from 1976 to 1985 saw a rapid rise in the demand for electricity and in the construction of generating facilities. During the same period, the country switched from primarily oilfired thermal plants to hydroelectric-power generation. In 1986 total generating capacity reached 1,802 megawatts, and the country produced 5,202 gigawatt-hours of electricity. Although Ecuador had a larger generating capacity from thermal plants than from hydroelectric facilities, 70 percent of the electricity produced in 1986 came from hydroelectric sources, because many of the thermal plants sat idle or underutilized. Completion of three new hydroelectric complexes under construction in the late 1980s was expected to allow complete dependence on hydroelectric sources by 1992.

The Amaluza complex on the Paute River near Cuenca offered Ecuador's largest single source of power. Current from this complex was carried to Guayaquil and to Quito via a 230-kilovolt transmission line. Disruptions of these lines caused occasional blackouts, and to provide for alternate routing, a second 230- kilovolt line was completed in 1988. Expansion of the grid continued throughout the early 1980s, until by 1984 more than half the households nationwide had access to electricity. Access for urban households considerably exceeded that for rural dwellings, however.

A government agency, the Ecuadorian Institute of Electrification (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Electrificación--Inecel), functioned as the nation's generation and transmission company. Inecel in turn sold electricity to local distribution companies over which it exercised some control through majority ownership of their stock.


Industrialization occurred later in Ecuador than in most other Latin American countries. As late as 1960, the small industrial sector consisted almost entirely of textile production, food processing, and artisan activity. Manufacturing began to develop in the mid-1960s, and during the 1970s, spurred by petroleum revenues and exports to other nations in the Andean Common Market (Ancom, also known as the Andean Pact), manufacturing became the most dynamic sector of the economy. Manufacturing stagnated in the 1980s, however, with an average annual growth of only 0.8 percent for the period 1981-87. In 1987 it accounted for over 17 percent of the GDP.

Food processing and textile manufacturing accounted for almost 60 percent of the total value of manufacturing in 1986. Nonmetallic minerals and metals comprised 12 percent of the total value; all other industries accounted for the balance.

Most industrial establishments were small and barely more than handicraft operations. A government industrial census in the early 1980s listed more than 35,000 firms, but only 28 of these had more than 500 employees; more than 31,000 had from 1 to 4 workers. Individual proprietors owned and managed most firms. Shoemaking shops, woodworkers, or furniture makers represented nearly half of the establishments listed in the census.

Guayaquil was the most important industrial center, followed by Quito. Together the two cities accounted for about two-thirds of total factory employment. Agricultural and beverage processing plants, sawmills, shipyards, iron foundries, and cement and chemical plants were Guayaquil's main industries. Textile production and food processing topped the list of industrial activities in Quito. The government had made an attempt in the early 1970s to disperse industrial activity by promoting industrial parks in other cities, with some success.

Sugar refining, rice milling, and flour milling were among the largest sectors in the food-processing industry. Two sugar mills dominated the industry and processed most of the sugar used domestically. Rice milling was concentrated in the Costa and consisted of numerous publicly owned mills, as well as many smaller private ones. Most flour mills were located near larger cities in the Sierra and used locally grown wheat; the three large flour mills near Guayaquil used mainly imported wheat. Ecuador also had a large baking industry, and nearly all cities had commercial bakeries producing bread and cakes.

The textile industry, which ranked next to food processing in value of production, was concentrated in the Sierra, where it originated as an outgrowth of home weaving. Most textile plants remained small, although one Quito firm was among the largest employers in the country.

The construction industry showed a steady decline during the 1980s and accounted for only about 4 percent of the GDP in 1987. Because over 95 percent of the construction in Ecuador resulted from government-financed projects, the industry remained highly vulnerable to periods of austerity in government spending. Indeed, the sector's only growth year in the decade of the 1980s occurred in 1987, reflecting large-scale highway rebuilding after the earthquake. High interest rates and a shortage of cement also hampered construction projects.

Artisan activity constituted a large part of the manufacturing labor force. Although many of the artisans had considerable skills in such occupations as weaving, their wages were among the lowest in the labor force, and as machine-weaving became more widespread their skills were increasingly obsolete. In the 1980s, the government offered special credits and loans to encourage a transition from artisan workshops to small factories.

The largest number of artisans produced clothing and furniture. This group included dressmakers, tailors, shoemakers, cabinetmakers, and carpenters. Several thousand additional artisans were goldsmiths or silversmiths.

Ecuador - SERVICES

The service sector constituted the largest component of the Ecuadorian economy, accounting for almost 50 percent of the GDP in 1987. The largest parts of the service sector were wholesale and retail trade at 29 percent, financial services at 23 percent, and transportation and communications at 15 percent of services. Although contributing half the nation's wealth, financial services were inadequate, and the communication and transportation networks remained underdeveloped. Financial System

The country's modern finance and banking system began in 1948 with the establishment of the Central Bank. The Law of the Monetary System of 1961 defined the functions of the Central Bank, which included issuing and stabilizing the national currency, providing credit to the private sector, managing foreign-exchange reserves, controlling import-export permits, carrying out the Monetary Board's policies, supervising private banks, and regulating international financial transactions. The bank also maintained a check clearinghouse, rediscounted and made advances to commercial banks, and published economic data.

In 1989 the structure of the banking system resembled a threetiered pyramid with the Monetary Board at the apex. The Bank Superintendency and the Central Bank occupied the next tier and lent funds to four state-owned financial institutions. At the bottom came the commercial banks, savings and loan associations, and finance companies, which operated at the local level.

The Monetary Board regulated the entire banking and credit system, including the Central Bank. In the 1980s, the board's eleven members included the chairman, appointed by the president of Ecuador, and the ministers of finance and credit; agriculture and livestock; energy and mines; and industry, commerce, integration, and fishing. Also included were the president of the National Planning Board, two representatives of national chamber of commerce organizations, a representative of the commercial banks, the general manager of the Central Bank, and the head of the Bank Superintendency. The Monetary Board's functions included formulating the country's economic policy; determining interest rates; and setting Central Bank credit levels, minimum reserve requirements, and exchange rates.

The Bank Superintendency supervised and controlled banks, finance companies, and insurance companies. The Congress appointed the head or superintendent from three candidates proposed by the president. Funded by compulsory contributions from the financial institutions under its control, the Bank Superintendency also collected and published banking statistics.

The national government and the private banks jointly owned the Central Bank and tasked it with carrying out the policies of the Monetary Board and for supervising the activities of private banks. All private banks in Ecuador were required to invest at least 5 percent of their capital and reserves in the Central Bank, and together they owned the majority of shares in the Central Bank. Headquartered in Quito, the Central Bank had sixteen branches in other cities and towns in the late 1980s.

The four major government-owned financial institutions were the National Development Bank (Banco Nacional de Fomento--BNF); the Securities Commission-National Financial Corporation (Comisión de Valores-Corporación Financiera Nacional--CV-CFN), more commonly known as the National Financial Corporation (Corporación Financiera Nacional--CFN); the Ecuadorian Housing Bank (Banco Ecuatoriano de la Vivienda--BEV); and the Development Bank of Ecuador (Banco de Desarrollo de Ecuador--Bede), formerly known as the Cooperatives Bank of Ecuador. Each institution had a specialized role: the BNF provided loans for agriculture and industry, the CFN lent capital to industries utilizing local raw materials or making handicrafts, the BEV promoted low-income housing, and the Bede lent funds to local credit cooperatives, especially those in rural areas.

The thirty-one commercial banks were the most important financial institutions in the country, attracting the major portion of deposits and making the largest percentage of total loans in the banking system. Only four of the commercial banks were foreign: the United Holland Bank from the Netherlands, Citibank and the Bank of America from the United States, and Lloyd's Bank from Britain, formerly known as the Bank of London and South America. In 1986 the Bank of Pichincha, Pacific Bank, Philanthropic Bank, People's Bank, and Continental were the five largest locally owned commercial banks.

Several other types of private financial institutions existed in 1988. Eleven savings and loan associations, 26 finance companies, 123 cooperative savings institutions, and 4 credit card companies provided various forms of financing or credit. The Ecuadorian Development Finance Company (Compañía Financiera Ecuatoriana de Desarrollo--Cofiec) was founded in 1966 by local and foreign commercial banks, local businessmen, several international finance firms, and the CFN. Cofiec was an important source of funds to private industry, both in the form of loans and in equity investment.

Two stock exchanges operated, one each in Quito and Guayaquil. Although the Quito exchange handled almost twice as many transactions as the Guayaquil exchange in 1986, neither was large. The great majority of trading occurred in government issues and mortgage bonds, with only a small amount of trading in common stocks or other securities. Most Ecuadorian businesses were owned by small numbers of individuals, and few resorted to public financing to raise capital.


Ecuador - Tourism

In contrast to many other Latin American countries, Ecuador had a small tourist industry, and it played only a minor role in the economy in the 1980s. In 1985 approximately 250,000 tourists visited Ecuador and contributed over US$200 million to the economy. Colombia was the source of 36 percent of the visitors, followed by the United States with 2l percent and Western Europe with 18 percent. Ecuador did not include brief cross-border visits in official tourist statistics, so these figures do not include the many Colombian visitors who were only on short shopping trips, taking advantage of the generally lower prices in Ecuador.

The government provided limited support of tourism, and many colonial towns, ancient ruins, and areas of natural beauty were undeveloped because of lack of promotion or inadequate infrastructure for visitors. The most popular tourist destination in the 1980s was the Galápagos Islands, but concerns over the delicate and unique environment limited large-scale tourism there. The National Directorate of Tourism was attempting to broaden the tourist destinations available.

<"http://accommodations-travelnow.com/latin-america/ecuador/">Ecuador Accommodations

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.

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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.

Ecuador - Bibliography

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Alcina Franch, José. Manual de Arqueología Americana.
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Ayala Mora, Enrique. Lucha política y orígen de los partidos en
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Bannon, John Francis, Robert Ryal Miller, and Peter Masten Dunne.
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Bennett, Wendell C. "The Andean Highlands: An Introduction." Pages
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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.

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