Country of the World Ecuador

About the country Ecuador, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.

NATIONS AND THEIR RULER

ECUADOR

NITTY-GRITTY

Lay of the Land: Ecuador lies on the equator (from which it derives its name) on the Pacific coast of South America. The Galapagos Islands, 600 mi. off the coast, also belong to Ecuador. The country offers great geographical diversity, from coastal lowland to high, snowcapped Andean peaks to the tropical Amazon rain forests of eastern Ecuador. The Andes, while dividing the country in two, also provide a temperate climatic zone. Thus, although the capital city, Quito, lies almost on the equator, its 9,000-ft. elevation is responsible for its year-round springlike climate.

Size: 109,483 sq. mi. (283,561 sq. km.).

Population: 7 million.

Who Rules: Although theoretically a democracy with a president and bicameral legislature elected every four years, Ecuador has been ruled by military juntas and dictators for the greater part of its 150-year existence as an independent nation. All political activity was banned in 1972 when Gen. Guillermo Rodriguez Lara seized power. In January, 1978, Lara announced that Ecuador would return to civilian control. A new constitution was enacted which, for the first time, gave the country's 1.5 million illiterates the right to vote.

Who REALLY Rules: Ecuador is ruled by a small oligarchy who control the country's resources and commercial transactions. The military has long been a major political force; it controls the government and has earmarked much of Ecuador's oil revenue for defense spending. Political parties and labor unions are small and weak, and Ecuador's Indians, though nearly half the population, have little power or influence. Though legally free, many work on vast plantations in virtual peonage to the hacienda owners.

--E.P.

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