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General Facts

Population: 16,402,402 Countrymeters
Capital: Quito
Area: 283,560 km²

About Ecuador
Ecuador, officially the republic of Ecuador (Spanish: república del ecuador, which literally translates as “republic of the equator”), is a representative democratic republic in north-western south America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the pacific ocean to the west. Ecuador also includes the Galapagos Islands in the pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland. What is now Ecuador was home to a variety of Amerindian groups that were gradually incorporated into the inca empire during the 15th century. The territory was colonized by Spain during the 16th century, achieving independence in 1820 as part of gran Colombia, from which it emerged as its own sovereign state in 1830. The legacy of both empires is reflected in Ecuador’s ethnically diverse population, with most of its 15.2 million people being mestizos, followed by large minorities of European, Amerindian, and African descendants. Spanish is the official language and is spoken by a majority of the population, though 13 Amerindian languages are also recognized, including quichua and shuar. The capital city is Quito, while the largest city is Guayaquil. In reflection of the country’s rich cultural heritage, the historical centre of Quito was declared an Enesco world heritage site in 1978. Cuenca, the third-largest city, was also declared a world heritage site in 1999 as an outstanding example of a planned, inland Spanish-style colonial city in the Americas. Ecuador has a developing economy that is highly dependent on commodities, namely petroleum and agricultural products. The country is classified as a medium-income country. Ecuador is a democratic presidential republic. The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable rights of nature, or ecosystem rights. Ecuador is also known for its rich ecology, hosting many endemic plants and animals, such as those of the Galapagos Islands. It is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world.

The US. dollar, current currency of the Republic of Ecuador
In its infancy, Ecuador was part of gran Colombia until 1830 as departamento del sur. Gran Colombia’s monetary regulations retained the old Spanish colonial system. Ecuador officially began its own monetary unit on June 28, 1835, when the inscription (rev.) “el Ecuador en Colombia” was changed to “Fepública del Ecuador”. Many regional coins from neighbouring Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, etc., as well as international units, were in circulation and accepted while Quito fought counterfeiting and tried to unify its currency. Counterfeiting had reached alarming proportions during 1842. At this time, Ecuador was on the verge of bankruptcy, and, since legitimate coins had such imperfections, it was impossible to tell them from the bad coins. On December 29, 1845, President Vicente Ramón Roca authorized a coin to compete with the Fuertes (full-bodied coin) of other countries. This was the peso fuerte. The standard of 903 fineness for silver, however, resulted in a heavy export of the coin. It disappeared as soon as it entered circulation (gresham’s law), grabbed up by the merchants of Guayaquil. By the 1850s, the Quito mint was not receiving enough precious metals to justify its operation. It had to coin a minimum of 6,000 pesos a year just to meet overhead. The mint was shut down temporarily during 1853 while the government considered the options of keeping it open or shutting it down permanently. The mint equipment was worn and could not produce coins in sufficient quantity to compete with the foreign coin that entered Ecuador. Congress passed a new monetary law on December 5, 1856, adopting the French decimal system, a standard of 0.900 for silver, and the Ecuadorian Franco. The peso remained a unit of account equal to 5 Francos. Paper money was first issued in 1859 by the banco de circulation y Descuento de Manuel Antonio de luzarraga in Guayaquil, with banknote denominations of 1, 4, 5, 10, and 20 pesos. Ecuador’s monetary unit, the peso, was renamed sucre (decree of March 22, 1884, effective April 1). The 1884 monetary law permitted free circulation of the gold coins of France, Italy, Switzerland, Colombia, etc. As for silver, the law permitted the import of 5-franc pieces of France, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland etc. Opper (vellón) was made legal tender to 5 décimos. Bank reserves were in silver coins, and banknotes were convertible solely into silver. Ecuador was on a de facto silver standard and did not coin any gold between 1884 and 1892. President antonio flores jijón announced that from august 15, 1890, only national coins were allowed to circulate in Ecuador, and Ecuador’s monetary system was unified. Following the financial banking crisis of 1999, the U.S. dollar became legal tender in Ecuador on March 13, 2000, and sucre notes ceased being legal tender on September 11. Sucre notes remained exchangeable at banco central until March 30, 2001, at 25,000 sucres per dollar. Ecuador now only issues its own centavo coins.

Foreign Affairs
Ecuador’s principal foreign policy objectives have traditionally included defense of its territory from external aggression and support for the objectives of the United Nations and the OAS. Ecuador’s membership in the OPEC in the 1970s and 1980s allowed Ecuadorian leaders to exercise somewhat greater foreign policy autonomy. In Antarctica, Ecuador has maintained a peaceful research station for scientific study as a member nation of the Antarctica Treaty. Ecuador has often placed great emphasis on multilateral approaches to international issues. Ecuador is a member of the United Nations (and most of its specialized agencies) and a member of many regional groups, including the Rio Group, the Latin American Economic System, the Latin American Energy Organization, the Latin American Integration Association, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, the Andean Community of Nations, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and The Bank of the South (Spanish: Banco del Sur or BancoSur).

Government and politics
The Ecuadorian State consists of five branches of government: the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch, the Electoral Branch, and Transparency and Social Control. Ecuador is governed by a democratically elected President, for a four-year term. The current president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, exercises his power from the presidential Palacio de Carondelet in Quito. The current constitution was written by the Ecuadorian Constituent Assembly elected in 2007, and was approved by referendum in 2008. Since 1936, voting is compulsory for all literate persons aged 18–65, optional for all other citizens. The executive branch includes 25 ministries. Provincial governors and councilors (mayors, aldermen, and parish boards) are directly elected. The National Assembly of Ecuador meets throughout the year except for recesses in July and December. There are thirteen permanent committees. Members of the National Court of Justice are appointed by the National Judicial Council for nine-year terms.

Executive branch
Palacio de Carondelet, the executive branch of the Ecuadorian Government The executive branch is led by the president, an office currently held by Rafael Correa. He is accompanied by the vice-president, currently Jorge Glas, elected for four years (with the ability to be re-elected only once). As head of state and chief government official, he is responsible for public administration including the appointing of national coordinators, ministers, ministers of State and public servants. The executive branch defines foreign policy, appoints the Chancellor of the Republic, as well as ambassadors and consuls, being the ultimate authority over the Armed Forces of Ecuador, National Police of Ecuador, and appointing authorities. The acting president’s wife receives the title of First Lady of Ecuador.

Ecuador has a developing economy that is highly dependent on commodities, namely petroleum and agricultural products. The country is classified as a medium-income country. Ecuador’s economy is the eighth largest in Latin America and experienced an average growth of 4.6% between 2000 and 2006. From 2007 to 2012 Ecuador’s GDP grew at an annual average of 4.3 percent, above the average for Latin America and the Caribbean, which was 3.5%, according to the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Ecuador was able to maintain relatively superior growth during the crisis. In January 2009 the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE) put the 2010 growth forecast at 6.88%. In 2011 its GDP grew at 8% and ranked 3rd highest in Latin America, behind Argentina (2nd) and Panama (1st). Between 1999 and 2007, GDP doubled, reaching $65,490 million according to BCE. Inflation rate up to January 2008 was located about 1.14%, the highest recorded in the last year, according to the government. The monthly unemployment rate remained at about 6 and 8 percent from December 2007 until September 2008; however, it went up to about 9 percent in October and dropped again in November 2008 to 8 percent. Unemployment mean annual rate for 2009 in Ecuador was 8.5% because the global economic crisis continued to affect the Latin American economies. From this point unemployment rates started a downward trend: 7.6% in 2010, 6.0% in 2011, and 4.8% in 2012. The extreme poverty rate has declined significantly between 1999 and 2010. In 2001 it was estimated at 40% of the population, while by 2011 the figure dropped to 17.4% of the total population. This is explained to an extent by emigration and the economic stability achieved after adopting the U.S. dollar as official means of transaction. However, starting in 2008 with the bad economic performance of the nations where most Ecuadorian emigrants work, the reduction of poverty has been realized through social spending mainly in education and health.

Refineries in Esmeraldas
Oil accounts for 40% of exports and contributes to maintaining a positive trade balance. Since the late 1960s, the exploitation of oil increased production, and proven reserves are estimated at 6.51 billion barrels as of 2011. The overall trade balance for August 2012 was a surplus of almost $390 million for the first six months of 2012, a huge figure compared with that of 2007, which reached only $5.7 million; the surplus had risen by about $425 million compared to 2006. The oil trade balance positive had revenues of $3.295 million in 2008, while non-oil was negative, amounting to $2.842 million. The trade balance with the United States, Chile, the European Union, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, and Mexico is positive. The trade balance with Argentina, Colombia, and Asia is negative. In the agricultural sector, Ecuador is a major exporter of bananas (first place worldwide in production and export), flowers, and the seventh largest producer of cocoa. The shrimp, sugar cane, rice, cotton, corn, palm, and coffee productions are also significant. The country’s vast resources include large amounts of timber across the country, like eucalyptus and mangroves. Pines and cedars are planted in the region of La Sierra and walnuts, rosemary, and balsa wood in the Guayas River Basin. The industry is concentrated mainly in Guayaquil, the largest industrial center, and in Quito, where in recent years the industry has grown considerably. This city is also the largest business center of the country. Industrial production is directed primarily to the domestic market. Despite this, there is limited export of products produced or processed industrially. These include canned foods, liquor, jewelry, furniture, and more. A minor industrial activity is also concentrated in Cuenca. The incomes due to the tourism have been increasing during the last years because of the efforts of the Government of showing the variety of climates and the biodiversity in Ecuador.

World Trade Center headquarters in Guayaquil
Ecuador has negotiated bilateral treaties with other countries, besides belonging to the Andean Community of Nations, and an associate member of Mercosur. It also serves on the World Trade Organization (WTO), in addition to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) and other multilateral agencies. In April 2007, Ecuador paid off its debt to the IMF, thus ending an era of interventionism of the Agency in the country. The public finance of Ecuador consists of the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE), the National Development Bank (BNF), the State Bank, the National Finance Corporation, the Ecuadorian Housing Bank (BEV) and the Ecuadorian Educational Loans and Grants. Between 2006 and 2009, the government increased social spending on social welfare and education from 2.6% to 5.2% of its GDP. Starting in 2007, with an economy surpassed by the economic crisis, Ecuador was subject to a number of economic policy reforms by the government that have helped steer the Ecuadorian economy to a sustained, substantial, and focused financial stability and social policy. Such policies were expansionary fiscal policies, of access to housing finance, stimulus packs, and limiting the amount of money reserves banks could keep abroad. The Ecuadorian Government has made huge investments in education and infrastructure throughout the nation, which have improved the lives of the poor. In 2000, Ecuador changed its currency from the sucre to the U.S. dollar following a banking crisis. On December 12, 2008, president Correa announced that Ecuador would not pay $30.6 million in interest to lenders of a $510-million loan, claiming that they were illegitimate. In addition, it claimed that $3.8 billion in foreign debt negotiated by previous administrations was illegitimate because it was authorized without executive decree. At the time of the announcement, the country had $5.65 billion in cash reserves. States that “Since Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa won a third term in 2013, this should provide further stability and a good rate of growth for Ecuador’s economy.” Ecuador, as part of the Mercosur, have signed a free trade agreement with Lebanon on December 18, 2014.

The current structure of the Ecuadorian public health care system dates back to 1967. The Ministry of the Public Health (Ministerio de Salud Pública del Ecuador) is the responsible entity of the regulation and creation of the public health policies and health care plans. The Minister of Public Health is appointed directly by the President of the Republic. The current minister, or Ecuadorian general surgeon, is Margarita Guevara. The philosophy of the Ministry of Public Health is the social support and service to the most vulnerable population, and its main plan of action lies around communitarian health and preventive medicine. The public healthcare system allows patients to be treated without an appointment in public general hospitals by general practitioners and specialists in the outpatient clinic (Consulta Externa) at no cost. This is done in the four basic specialties of pediatric, gynecology, clinic medicine, and surgery. There are also public hospitals specialized to treat chronic diseases, target a particular group of the population, or provide better treatment in some medical specialties. Some examples in this group are the Gynecologic Hospitals, or Maternities, Children Hospitals, Geriatric Hospitals, and Oncology Institutes. Although well-equipped general hospitals are found in the major cities or capitals of provinces, there are basic hospitals in the smaller towns and canton cities for family care consultation and treatments in pediatrics, gynecology, clinical medicine, and surgery. Community health care centers (Centros de Salud) are found inside metropolitan areas of cities and in rural areas. These are day hospitals that provide treatment to patients whose hospitalization is under 24 hours. The doctors assigned to rural communities, where the Amerindian population can be substantial, have small clinics under their responsibility for the treatment of patients in the same fashion as the day hospitals in the major cities. The treatment in this case respects the culture of the community. The public healthcare system should not be confused with the Ecuadorian Social Security healthcare service, which is dedicated to individuals with formal employment and who are affiliated obligatorily through their employers. Citizens with no formal employment may still contribute to the social security system voluntarily and have access to the medical services rendered by the social security system. The Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (IESS) has several major hospitals and medical sub-centers under its administration across the nation. Ecuador currently ranks 20, in most efficient health care countries, compared to 111 back in the year 2000. Ecuadorians have a life expectancy of 75.6 years. The infant mortality rate is 13 per 1,000 live births, a major improvement from approximately 76 in the early 1980s and 140 in 1950. 23% of children under five are chronically malnourished. Population in some rural areas have no access to potable water, and its supply is provided by mean of water tankers. There are 686 malaria cases per 100,000 people. Basic health care, including doctor’s visits, basic surgeries, and basic medications, has been provided free since 2008. However, some public hospitals are in poor condition and often lack necessary supplies to attend the high demand of patients. Private hospitals and clinics are well equipped but still expensive for the majority of the population.

Human rights
UN’s Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has treated the restrictions on freedom of expression and efforts to control NGOs and recommended that Ecuador should stop the criminal sanctions for the expression of opinions, and delay in implementing judicial reforms. Ecuador rejected the recommendation on decriminalization of libel. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) President Correa has intimidated journalists and subjected them to “public denunciation and retaliatory litigation”. The sentences to journalists have been years of imprisonment and millions of dollars of compensation, even though defendants have been pardoned. Correa has stated he was only seeking a retraction for slanderous statements. According to HRW, Correa’s government has weakened the freedom of press and independence of the judicial system. In Ecuador’s current judicial system, judges are selected in a contest of merits, rather than government appointments. However, the process of selection has been criticized as biased and subjective. In particular, the final interview is said to be given “excessive weighing.” Judges and prosecutors that have made decisions in favor of Correa in his lawsuits have received permanent posts, while others with better assessment grades have been rejected. Adult Galápagos sea lion resting on a park bench in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno . The laws also forbid articles and media messages that could favor or disfavor some political message or candidate. In the first half of 2012, twenty private TV or radio stations were closed down. In July 2012 the officials warned the judges that they would be sanctioned and possibly dismissed if they allowed the citizens to appeal to the protection of their constitutional rights against the state. People engaging in public protests against environmental and other issues are prosecuted for “terrorism and sabotage”, which may lead to an eight-year prison sentence. Human Rights Watch has been criticized for bias on its reports on Ecuador.

Most Ecuadorians speak Spanish, though many speak Amerindian language, such as Kichwa (also spelt Quichua), which is one of the Quechuan languages and is spoken by approximately 2.5 million people in Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. Other Amerindian languages spoken in Ecuador include Awapit (spoken by the Awá), A’ingae (spoken by the Cofan), Shuar Chicham (spoken by the Shuar), Achuar-Shiwiar (spoken by the Achuar and the Shiwiar), Cha’palaachi (spoken by the Chachi), Tsa’fiki (spoken by the Tsáchila), Paicoca (spoken by the Siona and Secoya), and Wao Tededeo (spoken by the Waorani). Though most features of Ecuadorian Spanish are those universal to the Spanish-speaking world, there are several idiosyncrasies.

The rehabilitation and reopening of the Ecuadorian railroad and use of it as a tourist attraction is one of the recent developments in transportation matters. The roads of Ecuador in recent years have undergone important improvement. The major routes are Pan American (under enhancement from four to six lanes from Rumichaca to Ambato, the conclusion of 4 lanes on the entire stretch of Ambato and Riobamba and running via Riobamba to Loja). In the absence of the section between Loja and the border with Peru, there are the Route Espondilus and/or Ruta del Sol (oriented to travel along the Ecuadorian coastline) and the Amazon backbone (which crosses from north to south along the Ecuadorian Amazon, linking most and more major cities of it). Another major project is developing the road Manta – Tena, the highway Guayaquil – Salinas Highway Aloag Santo Domingo, Riobamba – Macas (which crosses Sangay National Park). Other new developments include the National Unity bridge complex in Guayaquil, the bridge over the Napo river in Francisco de Orellana, the Esmeraldas River Bridge in the city of the same name, and, perhaps the most remarkable of all, the Bahia – San Vincente Bridge, being the largest on the Latin American Pacific coast. The Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito and the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil have experienced a high increase in demand and have required modernization. In the case of Guayaquil it involved a new air terminal, once considered the best in South America and the best in Latin America and in Quito where an entire new airport has been built in Tababela and was inaugurated in February 2013, with Canadian assistance. However, the main road leading from Quito city centre to the new airport will only be finished in late 2014, making current travelling from the airport to downtown Quito as long as two hours during rush hour. Quito’s old city-centre airport is being turned into parkland, with some light industrial use.

There is great variety in the climate, largely determined by altitude. It is mild year-round in the mountain valleys, with a humid subtropical climate in coastal areas and rainforest in lowlands. The Pacific coastal area has a tropical climate with a severe rainy season. The climate in the Andean highlands is temperate and relatively dry, and the Amazon basin on the eastern side of the mountains shares the climate of other rainforest zones. Because of its location at the equator, Ecuador experiences little variation in daylight hours during the course of a year. Both sunrise and sunset occur each day at the two six o’clock hours.

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