Ecuador Between 1970’s and 1990’s

By | December 14, 2021

When, in January 1976, a military triumvirate put an end to the authoritarian but nationalist and modernizing regime of General GR Lara, Ecuador it looked like a different country than in the past. The campaign for oil, with the drastic reduction of the privileges of multinationals and the creation of a public oil company, had ensured the state over 65% of production. The structure of exports was thus also diversified, taking power away from the oligarchy of the coast producing tropical goods. Ecuadorian society was overall more diversified, with incipient and difficult industrialization, the strengthening of the middle class and a growing factory proletariat, made more numerous by a constant rural exodus due to land inequality.

The new military junta implemented a repressive line against strikes, but paved the way for a return to a civilian government. In January 1978 a referendum invited voters to choose between a new Constitution (unicameral Congress, vote for the illiterate, president with greater powers but not re-eligible) and the reformed one of 1945 (two chambers, exclusion of illiterates from suffrage). For Ecuador 1998, please check

The first hypothesis won and the presidential elections were held in July 1978, after a law had excluded the eligibility of those who were children of foreign parents, aimed at targeting A. Bucaram, of Lebanese origin and leader of the powerful populist party CFP (Concentración de Fuerzas Populares). The ballot between the two most voted candidates, in April 1979, saw the triumph of J. Roldós Aguilera (CFP) against the candidate of the right. At the same time, the legislative elections marked the victory of new forces at the expense of the old parties, with the exception of the CFP. This reflected the economic, social and political changes that took place. The circumstances described would theoretically have allowed Roldós to govern without problems, but the conflicts between executive and legislative led to a paralysis of powers.

The causes of these contrasts are ascribed to Roldós’ progressivism, the incompatibility of the old populist party with the emerging forces (the Social Democrat Izquierda Democrática, ID, and Catholics, mainly) and an internal battle within the populist party which led to a split. At the beginning of 1981 a blitzkrieg in the border area between Ecuador and Peru – an Amazonian area where Peru had settled in 1942 – created a climate of “ sacred union ”, which Roldós would probably have benefited from. if he hadn’t perished three months later in a plane crash. He was succeeded by the Christian Democrat vice-president O. Hurtado, who counted on the support of his party (Democracia Popular) and ID, but which he failed to govern. The extreme political confusion was accompanied, after 10 years of success, by a profound economic crisis aggravated by the sharp fall in oil prices (on which public investments depended) and by unprecedented natural disasters. The crisis and the unpopular measures dictated by the International Monetary Fund caused an explosion of strikes and demonstrations, which took on a violent and corporate character without finding political instances to channel them.

The elections of January 1984 saw the center-left parties divided, while the right united in the Frente de Reconstrucción Nacional. In the ballot of May it was the right-wing candidate – L. Febres Cordero, of the Partido Social Cristiano (PSC), – to win by measure over R. Borja (ID), relying on popular discontent and on the traditional rivalry between the sierra (Quito) and the coast (Guayaquil), which seemed to have been eradicated with the return to democracy. The new president’s economic recipe was neoliberal: ” real prices ” for foodstuffs, wage restrictions, reduction of the state’s role in the economy, concessions and privileges to foreign capital, penalization of industry. The crisis was not, however, scratched; the. he was forced to suspend the service of the foreign debt, the amount of which rose to 9 billion dollars in 1987. The recessive trend affected the working class above all, triggering a spiral of strikes and street demonstrations. In 1987, while the level of malnutrition increased dramatically,

The period was marked by an almost perennial conflict between the executive and the Chamber, where a ” progressive bloc ” was formed that ranged from the Christian Democrats to the Marxist left. The legislator passed numerous resolutions that Febres refused to accept, including the impeachment of the Ministry of the Interior for violating human rights. The president governed through decrees, especially in economic matters, and developed a repressive policy towards civil society, which led to the appearance of right-wing paramilitary gangs and a left-wing guerrilla. Relations with the Armed Forces are also difficult, resulting in the attempted revolt of General F. Vargas Pazzos in March 1986. In January 1987 Febres was kidnapped by about eighty soldiers and after 12 hours he signed the release of Vargas, in prison despite the ‘

The situation that arose led to the defeat of the right in the last elections. In the runoff of May 1988, R. Borja (ID) prevailed over A. Bucaram (Partido Roldosista Ecuatoriano, PRE), grandson of the old populist and populist leader himself, former mayor of Guayaquil. Thus was recorded the defeat of populism and the coast. Borja set out to overturn economic policy through a model of mixed economy, industrialization, internal market growth and income redistribution. On the international level, Ecuador resumed the position of non-alignment, abandoned with Febres.

Despite the intentions to relaunch production, the economic situation remained difficult and the social democratic administration, also following pressure from the IMF, continued to resort to austerity measures which aroused new social protests. Further problems were caused by the instability of the parliamentary majority available to Borja, by the activities of far-right armed groups linked to former president Febres Cordero (involved in corruption and indicted for embezzlement in January 1990), and by the penetration of Colombian drug traffickers into Ecuador following the anti-drug measures adopted in that country since the late 1980s. In June 1990, the mid-term legislative elections saw a sharp drop in IDs to the benefit of the PSC and the PRE, that they were able to build a center-right majority in Congress; in the following autumn, however, the attempt by the right to take the tug-of-war with Borja to the extreme and initiate a procedure of the president’s impeachment was narrowly defeated in the parliamentary vote.

Also relevant was the problem of the Indians (about 30% of the active population), whose process of integration into Ecuadorian society was far from complete. In June 1990, the protest of indigenous organizations, which demanded the re-establishment of traditional community rights on land, compensation for environmental damage caused by oil companies and the recognition of Quechua as an official language, it took on insurrectional forms in some Andean provinces. From an economic point of view, while the problems in the foreign accounts persisted, the policies to contain internal consumption and the consequent social unrest (general strike of February 1991), an important agreement was reached in 1991 between the countries of the Andean Pact (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela): with the Declaration of Caracas, signed on May 18 by the presidents of the five states, they decided to create a free trade area in 1992 and to adopt a common tariff policy towards the rest of the world. Further integration measures were planned for the following years, in order to arrive at the formation of a fully integrated common market in 1995.

The general elections of May 1992 saw the defeat of ID and the strengthening of the conservative parliamentary majority; S. Duran Ballen, leader of a splinter faction of the PSC that gave birth to the Partido de Unidad Republicana, was elected in the second round of President of the Republic in July.

Ecuador Between 1970's and 1990's