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On the northwestern tip of South America between the countries of Peru and Colombia lies a country known for its exotic environment and rich indigenous culture. Yet like every other country, Ecuador has its ups and downs, including various shifts of political power, a staggered economy, conservation of natural resources, and relations with neighboring countries. Nonetheless, Ecuador continues its battle to make the world realize that this country is a strong independent nation and can politically and economically compete with the rest.
On the political spectrum, Ecuador has historically faced a rollercoaster of shifts in power within the national level of government. The instability of the presidential reign started as early as 1984 when President León Rivadeneira was kidnapped by a guerilla group. Proving to the rest of the country that the government was weakening, certain organizations sought to gain political power, shown within the “Uprising” of 1990. During this time, riots from indigenous peoples forced the government to give up land, foreshadowing the restart of indigenous influence within Ecuador. This loss in power also caused the privatization of state-owned enterprises and an increase in foreign debt. This weak state also allowed Ecuador to be more vulnerable for a second attack on Peru in 1995, caused from an unsettled agreement during the Peru-Ecuador Border War of 1941.
During recent years, the national government of Ecuador continues to face instability due to its continuous shifts of power; since the period from 1992 to 2007 Ecuador has seen as many as 12 leaders, with some being physically removed by the government itself. The recent president, Rafael Correa, along with the Alianza PAIS political party, has promised to install new policies including a decrease in debt, regulations on free trade agreements, and end in poverty of the low class.
The biggest political move since Correa has been in office was the reformation of the constitution. Calling for more unlimited presidential power, Correa, backed by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, brought upon conflict with congress who ultimately favored limited powers. The issue ended in tribunal judges removing 57 members of congress and the establishment of an elected national assembly to rewrite the constitution in favor of Correa, approved in September 2007. Since then, Correa has exercised his powers in several disputes about the oil industry as well as relations with neighboring countries.
The main dilemma of the Ecuadorian economy in the 1980s continues to cause the problems of today. A once thriving industry of the 1970s, the oil industry decreased due to lower oil prices. Due to the strong dependency upon petroleum resources, the drop in prices over time sparked high inflation, destruction of the banking system, a GDP decrease of over 6%, an overbearing debt, and an extremely high poverty rate. With these problems along the $3 billion damages from El Niño, the nation announced a state of emergency in 1999. Since then the nation has placed a heavy influence upon the economy, beginning with congress making the U.S. dollar the national currency in 2000.
Along with these changes, the oil industry is facing changes to increase national revenues, mainly due to the work of President Correa. Since the economic crisis, the economy grew over 5.5% with an overall decrease of the poverty rate. Recently Correa suspended free trade negotiations with certain countries including the U.S. due to their inability to meet exportation regulations. According to President Correa: “of every five barrels of oil that the multinationals produce, they leave only one for the state and take four” (Wikipedia, Correa). Although international trading has slowed, the government is looking into other ways of investment. Plans to resolve international exportation include an increase in revenue by producing oil in Amazonian regions and signing a deal with OPEC to build a refinery and petrochemical unit in Ecuador.
Other international struggles include the relationship between Ecuador and its neighboring countries. Although the agreement is resolved now, the border conflict between Peru and Ecuador started in 1941 with the Peruvian need for more land past the established Marañon-Amazon River border. Since the second attack on the borders in the conflict of 1995, some of the land given to Peru was given back to Ecuador, such as access to the Amazon River.
Although resolutions have been made with Peru, the main conflict of recent years is between Columbia and its largest rebel group, the FARC. After the FARC killed a senior rebel leader on Ecuadorian soil, Ecuador and Venezuela have fought to keep rebel groups as well as Colombian citizens out of Ecuador by sending troops to defend its borders. According to Correa, “Colombia has a foul and lying government that doesn’t want peace” (Wcbstv.com). Colombian conflicts also present problems in the continuance to smuggle narcotics across the border as well as into Ecuadorian Pacific borders in trade routes to the U.S. Before immigration laws were set, as many as 250,000 Colombian refugees had already successfully entered Ecuador.
With international conflicts on the rise, the main attraction to Ecuador remains to be the famous Galapagos Islands. Containing some of the most exotic fauna in the world, Ecuador continues to grow in its tourism, yet the plentiful amount of tourists crowding the area has its advantages and disadvantages. Although money from the area increases the nation’s revenue, the clash between the tourists and locals forces the two to fight for natural resources. After the national park was implemented to acknowledge Charles Darwin’s study in the islands, the area helped to manage tourism of those studying the different species, but the islands did not expect the area to become a rich area for maritime leisure activities. These problems eventually led to a national plan to increase conservation practices to help save the lands from development, illegal fishing activities, illegal immigration, and the overall threat to wildlife. Some regulations may hinder the tourist industry, but save the Galapagos ecosystem in the long run.
Laments Mentor Villagomez, Ecuador’s ambassador to the European Union once said that “Every country in the world has to compete for a limited amount of mindspace among consumers, tourists, investors and whoever else they wish to attract” (Placebrands). Like any other country, Ecuador faces problems within the government, economy, and international relations. Yet with these dilemmas brings the country the chance to seek recognition from the rest of the world. Although the economy has faced turmoil in the past, within the 21st century the economy grew 5.5%, the best increase in 25 years. With a strong economy brings the ability for the country to present a strong front, such as a promising government and its plans to stand up to illegal trading and immigration. The next step for Ecuador is to successfully show the rest of the world that Ecuador is no longer a suffering, third-world country, but a true competitor and a strong nation that has an extraordinary environment and culture unlike any other.
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