Over the last decade, Ecuador has been Latin America’s “basket case,” going through economic meltdowns and seven different presidents, three of whom were ousted by coups. The country tied its currency to the US dollar in 2000 to control runaway inflation, which had devastating effects on the nation’s economy in 1998, when El Niño caused $3 billion in damage to oil production, its main export. Massive strikes followed in 1999. President Rafael Correa is one of several leftist Latin American leaders, including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, who have led the region’s shift from free market neo-liberalism toward a stronger government hand in social programs and natural resource policy. The country’s human rights record continues to be poor, but that hasn’t stopped President Correa from dedicating his administration to maintaining Ecuadorian sovereignty in the hopes of making the country more competitive on the international market. Although his administration has not been free of scandal, Correa has worked to combat drug trafficking, while building trade, investment and financial ties.
Lay of the Land: Ecuador lies on the equator (from which it derives its name) on the Pacific coast of South America. The Galápagos Islands, 600 miles 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-foot elevation is responsible for its year-round springlike climate.
Ecuador declared war on Japan immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Ecuador granted the US base rights in the Galápagos Islands, primarily for the defense of the Panama Canal against possible Japanese attack. The United States constructed an air base on one of the Galápagos Islands, manned it until the end of World War II, and then turned it over to Ecuador.
The United States and Ecuador have maintained close ties based on mutual interests involving combating drug trafficking and building trade, investment and financial ties.
The United States is Ecuador’s principal trading partner. In 2006, Ecuador exported about $6.8 billion in products to the US. Since 1991 Ecuador has benefited from duty-free entry for certain of its exports under the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) and received additional trade benefits under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) in 2002. The US Congress approved the latest extension of those benefits through 2009, but the agreement will be reviewed in June. In May 2004 Ecuador entered into negotiations for an Andean free trade agreement with the US, Colombia and Peru, but negotiations between the US and Ecuador have not resumed since the government of Ecuador announced controversial reforms to hydrocarbons legislation in April 2006.
Ecuador's President Opposes U.S. Air Base in Manta
The State Department reported in 2008 that there continue to be problems with Ecuador’s human rights in the following areas: isolated unlawful killings and use of excessive force by security forces; occasional killing and abuse of suspects and prisoners by security forces, sometimes with impunity; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; a high number of pretrial detainees; and corruption and denial of due process within the judicial system.
Van Brugh Livingston
Appointment: Apr 10, 1848
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 12, 1848
For the first time in nine months, the South American nation of Ecuador has an ambassador at its Washington, DC, embassy. On January 18, 2012, Nathalie Cely Suárez replaced Luis Gallegos, whom the U.S. expelled in April 2011 as retaliation for Ecuador’s expulsion of U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges, after the release by WikiLeaks of a diplomatic cable in which Hodges discussed allegedly corrupt police officials appointed by President Rafael Correa, and even speculated that Correa “must have known” about the corruption.
President Barack Obama has turned to an experienced Latin America hand, Adam E. Namm, to serve as the new ambassador to Ecuador, replacing former ambassador Heather Hodges, who in April 2011 was expelled by the Ecuadorian government after the release by WikiLeaks of a diplomatic cable in which Hodges discussed allegedly corrupt police officials appointed to positions of high command by President Rafael Correa, and even speculated that Correa “must have known” about the corruption.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Heather M. Hodges has served as the US ambassador to Ecuador since July 15, 2008. Hodges has a BA in Spanish from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota, and an MA from New York University. She speaks fluent Spanish.