There was a time before the Incas when the country we know today as Ecuador was a thriving hub of cultures. Although less is known about the interior of the country, artefacts going back 3,500 years B.C. from the Valdivia culture have been found on the Pacific coast of the country. Other cultures included La Bahia, La Tolita and Los Mantenõs.
But it was the Incas who expanded from modern day Peru in the 15th century who are best known in our present day histories. The Incan conquest of Ecuador was short lived and in 1532 Francisco Pizarro arrived. Using modern weapons and tactics the Spanish forces soon overcame the larger but less well equipped Incan armies in a number of bloody and ruthless engagements.
In 1563 Ecuador, along with parts of Peru, Colombia and northern Brazil became part of the Royal Audencia of Quito. This administrative arrangement only ended in 1822 when the region was incorporated into the Republic of Gran Colombia.
By the early 1800s an independence movement was building and, with Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1808, the opportunity was seized. A messy compromise between the Quiteños and the Spanish authorities resulted in a junta composed mainly of Criollos (locally born but of Spanish ancestry). The junta declared the area of the Quito Audencia as independent of Spain in 1811 but the rebellion was crushed in 1812 by troops from the Viceroy of Peru.
By 1820 the forces of independence had taken route throughout the continent and a new junta declared independence. After a series of military engagements with mixed fortunes, the Spanish were finally defeated at the Battle of Pichincha in May 1822. The victory had come about with the support of forces from the Republic of Gran Colombia and eventually Ecuador became the District of the South.
The next few years were turbulent and violent and by 1830 Gran Colombia was fragmenting. In May 1830 it was decided to dissolve the union and a constituent assembly drew up a constitution for the State of Ecuador.
General Juan José Flores emerged as the dominant figure and is widely regarded to be the founder of the Republic. Poor management led to Flores being driven out in 1845 by a group known as the marcistas. The next few years brought more turbulence and by 1859 the country was near to anarchy.
Gabriel García Moreno, a popular conservative senator, was elected president in 1861 and brought stability back to the country. He served two terms before being assassinated in August 1875 just as he was about to serve a third term.
The demise of García Moreno led to a new period in Ecuador’s history dominated by liberalism. The new force to move the country forward was Eloy Alfaro who served two terms as President from 1895 – 1901 and again from 1906 – 1911. He was forcefully removed from office in 1911 and after attempting a coup in 1912 met a violent and unpleasant death.
As World War One tore the rest of the world apart, Ecuador suffered an economic malaise which eventually led to a coup in 1925 by the so called League of Young Officers. Their military junta never really achieved traction and in 1934 José María Velasco Ibarra was elected president. Velasco Ibarra was elected five times during his long political career, but never consecutively and nearly always was deposed in a coup of some sort. His last term in office was from 1968 – 1972. A great orator, he had many detractors but also achieved many great things for his country.
Whilst the rest of the world fought the Second World War Ecuador tried hard to settle its own territorial disputes with Peru, but in a negotiated manner. This led to the signing of the Rio Protocol which kept the peace until 1981 and again in 1985 when short wars eventually led to the Itamaraty Peace Declaration and a, hopefully, final settlement to the territorial disputes.
Although Velasco Ibarra was one of a number of presidents from the 1930s onwards the political atmosphere in Ecuador was poisonous and dangerous and led to unstable governments, coups and military interference.
In 1978, after a period of military juntas a national referendum was held to choose a constitution. Democratic rule was reinstated with the election, on 6th April 1979, of Jaime Roldós Aguilera of the Concentration of People’s Forces. It would be nice to say that things improved from this point, but the economy deteriorated as oil revenues dropped and a succession of presidents failed to make any impact.
León Febres Cordero was elected in 1984 and introduced free market policies but swings from left to right over the next few years did little to help stabilise the country politically or economically.
In 1996 Abdalá Bucaram from the Ecuadorian Roldosista Party was elected president but he was unseated a year later and replaced by Interim President Fabián Alarcón. In 1997 mass demonstrations led to a new constitution and in 1998 fresh elections saw Quito Mayor Jamil Mahuad of the Christian Democratic union elected. In 2000 demonstrators entered the National Assembly and demanded the removal Mahuad. He fled and Vice President Gustavo Noboa eventually replaced him, bringing some stability to the country.
Retired Colonel Lucio Gutiérrez of the Patriotic Society Party won the 2002 presidential election, but without party support in parliament he achieved little and in 2004 attempted to dissolve the Supreme Court. In April 2005 the army withdrew its support for the president and he was ousted and replaced by Vice President Alfredo Palacio.
In 2006 fresh elections were held and Rafael Correa of the PAIS Alliance was elected with 56.67% of the vote. Correa immediately took a hard line with international creditors and the country defaulted on around $3 billion in bonds. Since then his government has succeeded in bringing down the high levels of poverty and unemployment and he was re-elected for a second term in April 2009 with 51.99% of the vote. He enjoys high levels of public support of around 60% as he goes into election year in 2013.
The President is elected for a four year term.
The unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional has 124 members elected through a party-list proportional representation system to serve four-year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Ecuador at joint 120th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 31 (where 100 is least corrupt).