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Ecuador And Democracy Essay, Research Paper

Ecuador and Democracy

Briefly, democracy is a matter of degree and quality. Confusion often

arises in discussion about democracy. This stems from the different premises

people have in mind when they use the term. In my opinion, most people fail to

specify their underlying premises, and we often incorporate into our sense of

democracy disparate factors that may or may not relate to it. To avoid such

confusion, we must identify the key ideas central to democracy and clarify

precisely how the term will be used. The best way to study democracy is to

learn the other countries, so in this time I choose one of Latin American

countries, Ecuador for well-understanding of the process of democracy.

Ecuador is graphically one of the world’s most varied countries despite

its small size, which at 283520 sq. km is about the size of either New Zealand

or Nevada State. Ecuador staddles the equator on the Pacific coast of South

America and is bordered by only two countries, Colombia to the north and Peru to

the south and east.

The estimated population of Ecuador in 1991 was 10,800,00. This is

approximately 10 times the number of Indian estimated to have been living in the

area at the time of the Spanish conquest. The population density of about 38

people per sq. km is the highest of any South American nation.

Like other Latin American countries, the major religion is Roman

Catholicism. Some of the older cities have splendid 16th and 17th-century

Catholic churches. Although churches of other faiths can found, they form only

a very small minority. The Indians, while outwardly Roman Catholic, tend to

blend Catholicism with their traditional beliefs. In Ecuador, Spanish is the

main language. Most Indians are bilingual, with Quechua being their preferred

language and Spanish their second tongue.

Ecuador, that is the smallest of the Andean countries, is a republic

with a democratic government headed by a president. The first constitution was

written in 1830, but has had several changes since then, the most recent in 1978.

Democratically elected governments have regularly been toppled by coups, often

led by the military. Since 1979, however, all governments have been freely

elected. All literate citizens over 18 have the vote and the president must

receive over 50% of the vote to be elected. With at least 13 different

political parties, 50% of the vote is rarely achieved, in which case there is a

second round between the top two contenders. A president governs for a maximum

of five years and cannot be reelected.

The recent elections were in 1988, with 10 candidates running for

president. In the first round, held in January, Rodrigo Borja and Abdala

Bucaram achieved 24.1% and 17.6% of the votes. In the August runoff, Borja of

the Izquierda Democratica (Democratic Left) received a 52% majority and was

elected.

The president is also the head of the armed forces and appoints his own

cabinet ministers. There are 12 ministries forming the executive branch of the

government. The legislative branch of government consists of a single Chamber

of Representatives (congress) which has 69 members. The congress appoints the

justices of the Supreme Court. There are 21 provinces, each with a governor

appointed by the president and democratically elected prefects. The provinces

are sub-divided into smaller political units called cantones; each canton has a

democratically elected alcalde (mayor).

Most histories of Ecuador begin with the expansion of the Incas from

Peru in the 1400s, although archaeological evidence indicates the presence of

people in Ecuador for many thousands of years before then. The history of pre-

Inca Ecuador is lost in a tangle of time and legend. Generally speaking, the

main populations lived either on the coast or in the highland.

At the time of the Inca expansion the Duchicela descendants still

dominated the north, and the south was in the hands of the Canari people. The

Canari defended themselves against the Inca invaders, and it was some years

before the Inca, TupacYupanqui, was able to subdue them and turn his attention

to the north. During he fathered a son, Huayana Capac, by a Canari princess.

The subjugation of the north took many years and Huayana Capac grew up in

Ecuador. He succeeded his father to the Inca throne and spent years traveling

all over his empire, from Bolivia to Ecuador, constantly putting down uprisings

from all sides.

The year 1526 is a major one in Ecuadorian history. The Inca Huayna

Capac died and left his empire, not to one son as was traditional, but to two,

thus dividing the Inca Empire for the first time. In the same year, on 21

September, the first Spaniards landed near Esmeraldas in northern Ecuador. They

were led south by the pilot, Bartolome Ruiz de Andrade, on an exploratory

mission for Francisco Pizarro, who himself remained further north. Pizarro was

not to arrive as conqueror for several years.

Meanwhile, the rivalry of Huayna Capac’s two sons grew. The Inca of

Cuzco, Huascar, went to war against the Ecuadorian Inca, Atahualpa. After

several years of fighting, Atahualpa defeated Huascar near Ambato in central

Ecuador and was thus the ruler of the weakened and still divided Inca Empire

when Pizarro arrived in 1532 with plans to conquer the Incas.

Pizarro’s advance was rapid and dramatic. His horse-riding, amour-

wearing and cannon firing conquistadors were believed to be godlike and,

although few in number, spread terror among the Indians. In late 1532, a summit

meeting was arranged between Pizarro and Atahualpa. Although Atahuaipa was

prepared to negotiate with the Spaniards, Pizarro had other ideas. When the

Inca arrived at the pre-arranged meeting place on 16 November, he was ambushed

by the conquistadors who massacred most of his armed guards and captured

Atahualpa. Atahualpa was hold for ransom, and incalculable quantities of gold,

silver and other valuables poured in to Cajamarca. When the ransom was paid the

Inca, instead of being sentenced to death. His crimes were incest, polygamy,

worship of false gods, and crimes against the king. He was executed on 29

August 1533, and the Inca Empire was at an end.

From 1535 onwards, the colonial era proceeded with the usual intrigues

amongest the Spanish but with no major uprisings by the Ecuadorian Indians.

Lima, Peru was the seat of the political administration of Ecuador during the

first centuries of colonial rule. Ecuador was the first known as a

“gobernacion” (province) but in 1563 became the “Audiencia de Quito,” amore

important political division. In 1739, the “audiencia” was transferred from the

viceroyalty of Peru, of which it was a part, to the viceroyalty of Colombia

(then known as Nueva Grenada).

Ecuador remained a peaceful colony during these centuries, and

agriculture and the art flourished. Various new agriculture products, such as

cattle and bananas, which still remain important in Ecuador today, were

introduced from Europe. There was prolific construction of churches and

monasteries which were decorated with unique carvings and paintings resulting

from the blend of Spanish and Indian art influences.

Life was comfortable for the ruling colonialists, but the Indians and

later “mestizo”, were treated under their rule. A system of forced labour was

not only tolerated but encouraged, and it is no surprise that by the 18th

century there were several uprisings of the Indians against the Spanish ruling

classes.

The first serious attempt to liberate Ecuador from Spanish rule was by a

partisan group led by Juan Pio Montufar on 10 August 1809. The group managed to

take Quito and install a government, but this lasted just 24 days before troops

of the King of Spain were able to regain control.

Independence was finally achieved by Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan

liberator who marched southward from Caracas, feed Colombia in 1819, and

supported the people of Guayaquil when they claimed independence on 9 October

1820. It took almost two years before Ecuador was entirely liberated from

Spanish rule. The decisive battle was fought on 24 May 1882 when Field Marshal

Sucre, one of Bolivar’s best generals, defeated the royalists at the Battle of

Pichincha and took Quito.

Bolivar’s idealistic dream was to form a united South America, so he

began by amalgamating Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador into the independent

nation of Gran Colombia. This lasted only eight years and Ecuador became fully

independent in 1830. In the same year a treaty was signed with Peru, drawing up

a boundary between the two nations. This is the boundary that is marked on all

Ecuadorian maps. In 1942, after a war between the two countries, the border was

redrawn in Rio de Janeiro and it is this border that is found on non-Ecuadorian

maps. However, it is not officially acknowledged by Ecuadorian authorities.

Independent Ecuador’s internal history has been a typically Latin

America turmoil of political and open warfare between liberals and conservatives.

Quito emerged as the main centre for the church-backed conservatives and

Guayaquil has traditionally been considered liberal and socialist. This rivalry

continues on a social level today. Qiitenos have nicknamed Guayaquilenos as

“monos” (monkeys) and the lively coastal people think of the highland

inhabitants as very staid and dull.

The rivalry between the groups frequently escalated to extreme violence:

conservative President Gracie Moron was shot and killed in 1875 and liberal

President Eloy Alfaro was killed and burned by a mob in Quito in 1912. The

military began to take control and the 20th century has seen more periods of

military rule than of civilian.

Ecuador’s most recent period of democracy began in 1979 when President

Jaime Roldos Aguilera was elected. He was killed in an aeroplane crash in 1981

and his term of office was completed by his vice president, Osvaldo Hurtado

Larrea.

In 1984, the conservative, Leon Febres Cordero, was reelected to the

presidency. Following the democrat, Rodrigo Borja, became president and the

government leant to the left. The next elections are due in 1992. These are

not easy to follow, because there are at least 13 political parties in Ecuador.

There are also a number of communist, socialist, and revolutionary political

movements which are not officially recognized. These do have a certain amount

of political power which they exercise by forming alliances with one of the

official parties.

In conclusion, despite intense and bloody rivalry between liberals,

conservatives and the military during the earlier part of this century, Ecuador

has remained peaceful in recent years and is one of the safest countries in

South America at present. Everybody thinks that democracy is the most advanced

government form all over the world. However, we all should remember that it is

from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that our world is shaped.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hurtado, O. Political Power in Ecuador (Westview, 1985).

Linke, L. Ecuador: Country of Contrasts (Oxford, 1964).

Luzuriaga, C. Income Distribution and Poverty in Rural Ecuador (Arizona State

Univ. Press, 1983).

Redclift, M.R. Agrarian Reform and Peasant Organization in Coastal Ecuador

(London Univ. Press, 1978).

Schodt, D.W. Ecuador (Westview, 1986).

Whitten, N.E., ed. Cultural Transformations and Ethnicity in Modern Ecuador

(Univ. of Ill. Press, 1981).


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