Five things you should know about Ecuador ahead of this Sunday’s elections

Ecuador is celebrating the presidential elections today, eleven days after the assassination of one of the main candidates. It is a small oil-exporting Andean country with indigenous conflicts and plagued by drug trafficking violence.

1. Increase in drug trafficking

Located between Colombia and PeruEcuador, the world’s largest producer of cocaine, has become a major distribution center for the drug to Europe and the United States. This Andean country of 18.3 million inhabitants is experiencing the worst escalation of violence in its modern history. Drug-related crime nearly doubled the homicide rate between 2021 and 2022, 26 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Deadly shootings are common, especially in Guayaquil, a large port city in the south-west of the country. Clashes between criminal gangs have also repeatedly led to prison massacres, killing at least 430 inmates since February 2021.

Ecuador’s President, conservative Guillermo Lasso, also blamed “organized crime” for the August 9 attack in Quito that killed centrist presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who was runner-up in some polls.

2. Indigenous peoples in struggle

The 14 recognized indigenous nationalities They struggle to defend their ancestral lands threatened by oil and mining exploitation.

On August 20, coinciding with the first round of presidential elections, the a referendum on the suspension of oil production in the Yasuní nature reserve, in the north-east of the Amazon. However, the consultation also divides the indigenous communities.

The last census from 2010 showed that they are indigenous people 7% of the populationalthough according to their representatives they constitute 25% based on anthropological studies.

The indigenous peoples led a historic uprising in 1990After that, the government gave 2.3 million hectares of land to communities in the Amazon region where oil is extracted.

The powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) He also took part in the uprisings Deposed three presidents between 1997 and 2005. He led large-scale protests against the rising cost of living in June 2022, which left six dead and forced the Lasso government to cut fuel prices.

3. Former protector of Julian Assange

for seven yearsfrom 2012 to 2019 the founder of the WikiLeaks site, Julian Assangewho had published confidential documents on the military and diplomatic activities of the United States and other countries found refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

But the South American country then withdrew diplomatic asylum the coming to power of Lenin Moreno (2017-2021), closer to the United States than his left-wing predecessor Rafael Correa, now based in Belgium. The Australian was arrested by British police in April 2019 and has since been held in a maximum security prison near London. From there, he appealed an extradition order to the United States alleging that he had disseminated sensitive national security documents.

4. Oil, bananas and shrimp

Oil production was A pillar of the Ecuadorian economy since the 1970s. Crude oil, the top export, generated $10,000 million in revenue in 2022, about 10% of GDP.

The other main exports are bananas (the world’s largest exporter), shrimp, cocoa and roses. According to the World Bank, GDP growth in 2022 was 2.9%.

5. Galapagos Islands

Ecuador, washed by the Pacific Ocean to the west, is one of the smallest countries in South America with an area of ​​256,370 km2.

The Galapagos Islands, which he owns and are said to have inspired the 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin’s theory of species evolution, are classified by Unesco as a World Heritage Site for their fauna and flora, unique in the world.

This volcanic archipelago, which owes its name to its giant tortoises, is one of the places most exposed to the climate crisis. Endangered species include Marine iguanas, penguins, cormorants and sea lions.

In May, Ecuador received the reduction of approximately $1,000 million in foreign debtby committing to provide $450 million to protect the Galapagos.

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