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

Repblica del Ecuador
Ecuador COA
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: La Paz y el Bienestar, la Gloria y el Triunfo
(Spanish; The Peace and Wellbeing, the Glory and Triumph)
Official language Spanish
Other languages Quichua and other Amerindian languages
Capital Quito
Largest City Guayaquil
President Alfredo Palacio
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 71st
283,560 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 62nd

 - Date

From Spain

24 May, 1822

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

2 After a coup d'tat against Lucio Gutirrez.



Main article: History of Ecuador

Advanced indigenous cultures flourished in Ecuador long before the area was conquered by the Inca empire in the 15th century. In 1534, the Spanish arrived and defeated the Inca armies, and Spanish colonists became the new elite. The indigenous population was decimated by disease in the first decades of Spanish rule--a time when the natives also were forced into the "encomienda" labor system for Spanish landlords. In 1563, Quito, Ecuador became the seat of a royal "audiencia" (administrative district) of Spain.

After independence forces defeated the royalist army in 1822, Ecuador joined Simon Bolivar's Republic of Gran Colombia, only to become a separate republic in 1830. The 19th century was marked by instability, with a rapid succession of rulers. The conservative Gabriel Garcia Moreno unified the country in the 1860s with the support of the Catholic Church. In the late 1800s, world demand for cocoa tied the economy to commodity exports and led to migrations from the highlands to the agricultural frontier on the coast.

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

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

Since the return to democracy, Ecuador has had a succession of presidents who have tried to break the oligarchy by attempting various economic reforms. Most have failed, either due to resistance by the ruling class or because of corruption. In reaction to corruption and civil unrest, in April 2005 Ecuador's Congress staged a coup, overthrowing President Lucio Gutirrez and installing the Vice-President, Alfredo Palacio, in his place.


Main article: Politics of Ecuador

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

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

Foreign relations

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


Main article: Provinces of Ecuador


Missing image
Map of Ecuador

Main article: Geography of Ecuador

The capital is Quito and the largest city is Guayaquil.


Main article: Economy of Ecuador

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

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

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


Main article: Demographics of Ecuador

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

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

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


Main article: Culture of Ecuador

The culture of Ecuador mirrors the demographics of the country itself, and is a rich amalgam of various influences. Much like the ancestry of the mestizo majority, the national culture is also a mixture of both European and Amerindian influences, infused with various other elements inherited through the descendants of the country’s African slave past.

In addition to the national culture, many of the existing indigenous communities also practise their own autochthonous cultures.

Famous people born in Ecuador include poet and statesman Jos Joaqun de Olmedo, scholar Benjamin Urrutia, and tennis player Pancho Segura.

See also

External links


Countries in South America
Argentina | Bolivia | Brazil | Chile | Colombia | Ecuador | Guyana | Panama | Paraguay | Peru | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago | Uruguay | Venezuela
Dependencies: Falkland Islands | French Guiana

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