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Ecuador Contemporary History

Ecuador Contemporary History

End of the Oil Boom

Ecuador returned to democracy in 1979 when a combined ticket of Jaime Roldós, presidential candidate of the populist party, and Oswaldo Hurtado, vice presidential candidate and leader of the Christian Democratic Party, won an staggering 68.5 percent of the popular vote. Many doubted whether the military would permit Roldós and Hurtado to assume power, but the margin of victory and pressure from the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter made it difficult for the military to stop the democratization process they had initiated.

Roldós’ tenure as Ecuador’s president was short, he was killed in 1981 in an airplane accident in the southern province of Loja. Hurtado succeeded him and held the Presidency until 1984. Facing a grave external debt and various other financial problems, Hurtado lost the 1984 presidential elections to Leon Febres-Cordero of the Social Christian Party.

Febres Cordero is best known for his introduction of free-market policies during the beginning of his term. As was often the case with economic reforms in Ecuador, Cordero’s policies were largely precluded by the collapse of world oil prices in 1986 and an earthquake in March 1987 that destroyed a large stretch of Ecuador’s sole oil pipeline.

In 1988 Rodrigo Borja of the Democratic Left (ID) party won the presidency. Throughout Rodrigo’s presidency, his government pursued a gradual stabilization policy, that while helped by increasing oil export prices, suffered from extreme inflation, at times reaching more than 50%.

Modernization and Economic Crisis

President Sixto Durán Ballén succeeded Borja in 1992. The Durán Ballén administration took further steps to stabilize and modernize Ecuador’s economy. In January 1995, several crises, including the military confrontation with Peru, known as the Cenepa Incident, hurt the nation’s economy and delayed further reform. Despite its lack of popularity, the Durán-Ballén Administration can be credited with pushing several unpopular yet important modernization initiatives through Congress, as well as beginning the negotiations that would end in a final settlement of the territorial dispute with Peru.

In 1996, Abdalá Bucaram, from the populist Ecuadorian Roldosista Party, won the presidency on a platform that promised populist economic and social reforms. Almost from the start, Bucaram’s administration languished amidst widespread allegations of corruption. Empowered by the Presidents unpopularity with organized labor, business, and professional organizations alike, Congress unseated Bucaram in February 1997 on grounds of mental incompetence. The Congress replaced Bucaram with Interim President Fabián Alarcón.

In May of 1997, following the demonstrations that led to the ousting of Bucaram and appointment of Alarcón, the people of Ecuador called for a National Assembly to reform the Constitution and the country’s political structure. After a little more than a year, the National Assembly produced a new Constitution.

Fall of Mahuad and Dollarization

In August 1998, on the same day Ecuador’s new Constitution took effect, former Quito Mayor Jamil Mahuad began his presidential term. In January 2000, the wretched state of Ecuador’s economy and the dollarization of the economy prompted widespread street protests. Under Mahuad, Ecuador’s recession-plagued economy shrunk significantly and inflation reached levels of up to 60%, which culminated in Mahuad being forced from office.

On January 22, 2000, the Ecuadorian National Congress rejected a break in the constitutional order and ratified the procedure of presidential succession and affirmed Noboa’s assumption of the office of Head of State. It was during this time that Noboa served as president for the remainder of the period for which Mahuad was to have remained elected, though the same Indian leaders and crowds that ousted Muhuad kept a close watch on Noboa’s activity in the interim.

The New Century & Political Controversy

The indigenous population (approximately 25%) gradually emerged as an active constituency, given its members have been constantly agitated by the government’s incompetence to make amends and improvements to their living, both socially and economically.

When Guiterrez was elected President in 2002 and until his ousting in 2005, it was his unpopularity throughout the indigenous population that served as a substantial component in his being thrown out of office by congress in 2005. Not to mention, Guiterrez’s presidency came to an abrupt end that year in great part due to the growing protests and political crisis within the city of Quito itself. On April 20, 2005, the Congress of Ecuador voted on the removal of Gutierrez from office. Then, in tandem with the results of the vote being against Gutierrez, the Ecuadorian Joint Chiefs of Staff withdrew their support from Gutierrez which left the now former president with no recourse but to leave the country.

What came next was one of the most fervent demonstrations to sweep the city in the past decade. As Gutierrez attempted to flee Ecuador via airplane, the angry crowds of protesters managed to breach airport security and block the entire airstrip to prevent him from leaving. From here, Gutierrez had no choice to but to flee from the airport itself (in helicopter) to the Brazilian Ambassador’s house in the northern part of the city to seek temporary asylum. Vice President Alfredo Palacio was appointed to serve as President until the next elections, which Rafael Correa won on January 15, 2007.

On September 30, 2010 a series of protests took place on behalf of the law enforcement and public service workers alike, an event that was a reaction to seeing their benefits cut by the government as part of a financial austerity package. The issue that struck the most distressing of chords in policemen was the fact that the enactment of the new law ended the practice of giving medals and bonuses to officers with each promotion; not to mention, it extended the number of years necessary for promotions to occur from five to seven. During the revolt Correa was ambiguously taken hostage by police officers, an event which led to the deaths of several police officers as the army intervened to extract the president.

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