Country profile: Ecuador
Ecuador is a patchwork of
indigenous communities, including people of colonial Spanish origins
and the descendants of African slaves.
Its capital, Quito,
once a part of the Inca empire, has some of the best-preserved early
colonial architecture on the continent.
farming country, Ecuador's economy was transformed after the 1960s by
the growth of industry and the discovery of oil. There was rapid growth
and progress in health, education and housing.
But by the end of the 20th century a combination of factors,
including falling oil prices and damage caused by the weather
phenomenon El Nino, had driven the economy into recession.
Politics: Three presidents have been ousted since 1997; current leader Rafael Correa has pledged to introduce sweeping reforms
Economy: Ecuador exports oil but many people live in poverty; indigenous groups oppose free trade policies
International: Free trade talks with US are
frozen over a dispute about a US oil firm; Ecuador has complained of
border incursions by the Colombian military
Inflation, which had become the highest in the region, led the
government to replace the national currency with the US dollar in an
effort to curtail it.
Not all Ecuadorans have benefited equally
from oil revenues. The traditionally dominant Spanish-descended elite
gained far more than indigenous peoples and those of mixed descent.
to stabilise the economy, such as austerity measures and privatisation,
have generated widespread unrest, particularly among the indigenous
For a small country, Ecuador has many faces. They include
Andean peaks, tropical rainforests and - 1,000 km (600 miles) off the
coast - the volcanic Galapagos Islands, home to the animals and birds
whose evolutionary adaptations shaped Charles Darwin's theories.
- Full name: Republic of Ecuador
- Population: 13.6 million (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Quito
- Area: 272,045 sq km (105,037 sq miles)
- Major languages: Spanish, indigenous languages
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 78 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 US dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Petroleum, bananas, shrimp, coffee, cocoa, cut flowers, fish
- GNI per capita: US$3,640 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .ec
- International dialling code: +593
President: Rafael Correa
Rafael Correa won the
run-off vote in presidential elections in November 2006, promising a
social revolution to benefit the poor.
He took up his post in January 2007, joining Latin America's club of
left-leaning leaders, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and
Bolivian President Evo Morales, who have not been shy in their
criticism of the US and who have led a South American nationalisation
Mr Correa, an outsider with no political party backing,
moved quickly to secure the support of voters in a referendum for a
special assembly to rewrite the constitution.
He said the new
constitution was designed to hand more power to the poor and reduce the
role of the traditional parties, whom he blames for the country's
problems. Critics said it was solely aimed at increasing his powers.
resistance from the opposition-led Congress, the revised constitution
was approved by 64% of voters in a referendum in September 2008.
new basic law also allowed Mr Correa to stand for re-election, enabling
him to win a second term with a convincing election victory in April
Mr Correa is against Ecuador entering into a free trade
pact with the US, saying it would hurt Ecuador's farmers. Talks on such
a deal were frozen with his election.
He also refused to extend
the US military's use of the Manta air base on the Pacific coast for
drug surveillance flights after the treaty governing its use expired in
He opposes Colombia's coca crop spraying along their
common border as part of a drug eradication programme, saying the spray
drifts into Ecuador and kills crops - and reportedly also farmers.
Rafael Correa, centre, with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (left) and Bolivia's Evo Morales
Rafael Correa obtained his doctorate in economics from the
University of Illinois in the US in 2001 and was professor at Quito's
San Francisco University.
He was appointed economy minister in
April 2005 but was forced to resign after four months when he failed to
consult the president before publicly lambasting the World Bank for
denying Ecuador a loan.
Born in 1963, he spent a year as a
volunteer in a poor Indian village in the Andes mountains and speaks
French, English and some Quechua. He has three children with his
Private operators dominate the media scene. Radio is the most
widely-available medium; there are hundreds of stations. Some stations
in rural areas broadcast in indigenous languages.
Latin American soap operas and US series are staple fare on TV, although domestic programme production is on the increase.
The constitution provides for freedom of speech, and journalists are able to report without hindrance.
Newspapers exercise some self-censorship
However, some self-censorship, especially regarding
politically-sensitive issues and stories about the armed forces, is
exercised. Also, defamation is a criminal offence punishable by up to
three years in prison.
Thus the media are generally non-confrontational and measured in tone.
a law which requires the media to give the government free space or air
time, governments can and have required TV and radio to broadcast
programmes produced by the state.
Internet use is limited by high access costs. Less than 10% of Ecuadorans have web access.