Summary and Keywords
In the 200 years since Ecuador gained independence from Spain in 1822, it has experienced many of the social problems that have plagued other Latin American countries. Ecuador experienced a high degree of political instability during the 19th century, and a series of extra-constitutional and military governments marked much of the 20th century. At the dawn of the 21st century, Ecuador followed the rest of Latin America’s “pink tide,” which introduced progressive governments that sought to address long-standing problems of poverty and inequality. The country has endured numerous coups, caudillo and populist leaders, and forms of government ranging through conservative, liberal, populist, military, and civilian “democracy.” The diversity in political institutions led the political scientist John Martz to observe that Ecuador, although little studied among scholars of Latin American issues, “serves as a microcosm for a wide variety of problems, questions, and issues relevant to various of the other Latin American countries.” Despite a high degree of political instability, the country is also home to very strong popular movements that opened up space for the election of the left-wing government of Rafael Correa in 2006. His administration resulted in a remarkable shift from a period of extreme instability to political stability, with notable gains in economic growth and corresponding drops in poverty and inequality.
Scholarly research on Ecuador has often reflected the country’s current political environment. In the 1950s, in the midst of the emergence of populist politics, researchers defined the country’s landscape in terms of its personalist leadership, particularly as represented by the perennial leader José María Velasco Ibarra. In 1972, General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara led a military coup that removed Velasco Ibarra from office. In the midst of a petroleum boom, he established a nationalist regime similar to that of Juan Velasco Alvarado in neighboring Peru. A massive Indigenous uprising two decades later introduced a generation of studies that examined ethnonationalist-based social movements. Those movements led to Correa’s election in the midst of a broader turn to the left in Latin America, which once again influenced the direction of investigations.
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