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Ecuador. The Basics Despite diversity of agricultural exports (leading world provider of bananas, $1.2 billion in 2004, and major exporter of shrimp), substantial oil reserves, and high potential for tourism (Galapagos Islands), Ecuador one of the weakest countries in Latin America.

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The Basics

Despite diversity of agricultural exports (leading world provider of bananas, $1.2 billion in 2004, and major exporter of shrimp), substantial oil reserves, and high potential for tourism (Galapagos Islands), Ecuador one of the weakest countries in Latin America.

Population – 13.7 million in 2003, 70% below the poverty line, only 7.7% unemployment rate (widespread underemployment)

Racial Demographic – 65% mestizo, 25% Amerindian, 7% European, 3% Black

Famous Ecuadorians:

Jefferson Leonardo Pérez Quezada – won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games, 2003 and 2005 World Championships, and a silver in the 1999 World Championships in the 20 km race walk


Brief History

Independence in 1822

Late Nineteenth Century – cacao boom, economic prosperity

Strong Influence of Roman Catholic Church until 1895

Liberal Party became dominant political force in early 20th century

Demand for cacao declined in 1920s, led to decreased economic conditions, which led to political instability

José María Velasco Ibarra (Velasco for short) major influence in Encuadorian politics from 1934 until death in 1979


Government Succession

Significance of Velasco – ultimately reached presidency five times (1934, ’44, ’52, ’60, ’68), but only served out constitutional term once

1925-1948 : twenty one different governments 1948-1960 : three successful constitutional periods – largely the result of prosperity brought about by growth in banana trade 1960-1979 : eight different governments Since 1979 : consistent constitutional elections, but presidents tend to lose support, or, in Roldós instance, die, and be replaced (Roldós, Bucaram, Mahaud, Gutierrez)

In 1942, Ecuador and Peru went to war and Peru ended up taking almost half of Ecuador’s land


Presidential Timeline from 1996-2005

1996: Abdalá Bucaram elected

1997: Bucaram deposed by Congress on grounds of mental incapacity, replaced by Fabian Alarcon

1998: Jamil Mahuad elected

2000: Mahuad forced out of office by indigenous protesters after economic collapse; very brief military junta, then Vice President Gustavo Noboa takes office

2002: Lucio Gutierrez elected

2005: Gutierrez deposed by Congress; Vice President Alberto Palacio takes office


Constitutionally Elected Officials Control Government

True to a certain extent, but constitutionally elected officials have a history of being removed from office due to lack of support.

Presidents tend to run on populist campaigns in order to appeal to lower classes, but when they actually or just appear to go back on their promises, an activist population makes sure they are taken from office.

Examples taken from last three elections:

Bucaram, Mahuad, and Gutierrez


Abdalá Bucaram

Elected to presidency in 1996, ran a populist campaign condemning elites and calling for a government to support the poor

Once elected, adopted policies to reduce role of the state and was widely accused of corruption

Poor economic policies and lack of administrative ability led to rising costs of utilities and economic downfall

In 1997, Congress responded to strikes and protests by charging Abdalá with mental incompetence and removing him from office – took the time to come up with constitutional reason

For a week, there was no one officially recognized as president. Abdalá’s VP, Rosalía Arteaga, was passed up, and President of Congress, Fabían Alarcón, made president until election could be held in 1998. Military refrained from intervening.


Jamil Mahuad

Mahuad elected to presidency in 1998, faced massive economic crisis. Drop in oil prices in 1997-98, setbacks caused by El Niño in 1998, and poor economic conditions in the late 1990s all contributed to economic crisis.

In 1999, inflation rose to 50.2%, and the national currency was devalued by 65%. It took 11,786 sucres, Ecuador’s national currency, to equal a single American dollar.

Mahuad decided to make the US dollar the national currency, but brought massive protest as the lower classes weren’t really able to exchange their currency and it was virtually worthless while the upper classes had their money invested in US dollars

Indigenous groups protested, and the military and police allowed them to enter the National Assembly and demand that Mahuad be taken out of office. Mahuad fled for his safety, and, after a brief military junta, the Ecuadorian Congress made his Vice President, Gustavo Noboa, the President.


Lucio Gutierrez

First gained recognition as one of the military leaders that led move to remove Mahuad from office. Ran a populist campaign, advocating leftist policies and anti-corruption, but once elected adopted conservative policies and attempted to repress opposition.

Ex-President Bucarám’s (deposed in 1997 because he was “crazy,” remember?) political party started to support Gutierrez and helped keep him from being impeached in 2004. In December of 2004, Gutierrez appointed new judges to the Supreme Court, and this Supreme Court dropped charges of corruption against Bucarám.

In April of 2005, weeks of protests led to the ousting of Gutierrez. His Vice President, Alfredo Palacio, stepped into the presidency until elections can be held in 2006. Gutierrez fled neighboring countries, but returned to Ecuador in October, at which time he was immediately arrested. He claims that he is the constitutionally elected president, and still has followers that are calling for his return to the presidency.


Frequent and Fair Elections

Elections are relatively frequent and fair, this hasn’t traditionally been the problem in Ecuador. The problem is more that elected officials have been incapable of keeping support throughout their terms in office.


Almost All Adults Must Have the Right To Vote

Citizens must be over age 18 to vote, and suffrage is universal and compulsory for literate persons ages 18-65, and option for other eligible voters.


Almost All Adults Must Have the Right to Become Candidates for Public Office Without Fear for Their Lives or Their Property

Ecuador does not have the history of violence against political candidates that some other Latin American countries have. People are able to run for office without being in danger.


Citizens Must Have the Right to Express Themselves About Politics Without Fear of Being Punished

This portion of the Human Rights Report, published by the US Dept. of State in 2004, accurately characterizes Ecuadorian citizens’ ability to express themselves:

The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the Government generally respected these righs in practice; however, security forces used force to quell some violent demonstrations, resulting in one death and several injuries.

Numerous labor, indigenous, and student demonstrations took place in the capital and the outlying regions during the year. In February, the military shot four protesters (one of whom later died) who were participating in a demonstration by indigenous people. The military claimed the protesters were armed.

In general, the security forces intervened in demonstrations only when there was violence against bystanders or destruction of property.


Citizens Must Have the Right To Seek Alternative Sources of Information, and Such Sources Must Exist and Be Protected By Law

Citizens do have access to several sources of information, and they are protected by law. However, some self-censorship occurs, and defamation is a criminal offense which can result in up to three years in prison.

In 2004, the State Department reported that there are frequent charges of slander and libel brought by and against public figures, but few result in final decisions or judicial relief.


Citizens Must Have the Right to Form Independent Organizations and Groups, and the Government Should not Favor Certain Interest Groups Over Others

Indigenous Peoples:

In 1992, Congress granted the indigenous people in Ecuador 2.5 million acres of land in the Amazon

In 2001, Luis Maldonado was appointed to position of Minister for Social Welfare, becoming the first indigenous leader to hold a cabinet post

In 2004, the Ecuadorian National Congress was composed of four major parties, five minor parties, and thirteen coalitions and independents.


Political Power Should Not Be Concentrated In One Person or Group; There Should Be Separation of Powers

True in Ecuador since Velasco died in 1979, political parties tend to be weak and so no one party dominates Ecuadorian politics. In fact, party loyalty is so weak that, as a part of an amendment that took effect in 1998, members who defy their party leadership on key votes have penalties imposed against them.


Human Rights, Especially the Right to Life, Must Be Protected

Human rights have generally been respected in Ecuador, doesn’t have the history of human rights violations that other countries have, even during periods of authoritarianism.


US – Ecuadorian Relations

Like most Latin American nations, Ecuador depends upon IMF and World Bank for economic support

Presidents customarily face problem of appeasing the US and still keeping the support of Ecuadorian citizens

The drug war in Colombia spreads into the Andes in Ecuador, and the US has become more interested in Ecuador recently because of this