Location: Ecuador lies on the west coast of South America. A part of the great Inca Empire, Ecuador came under Spanish rule in 1533. It became independent in 1830. Some 40% of the population is Amerindian. Guayaquil is the chief seaport and airport. The Galapagos Islands (the home of huge tortoises) belong to Ecuador.
History: In Mar.-April '94, Ecuador and Peru fought a month-long war over a disputed border area. The Andean nations had fought wars in 1941 and 1981, over 78 km. of unmarked border amid a mountainous jungle. In Aug. '98, Peru charged Ecuadorian troops had entered its territory.
Trade & Industry: Ecuador is the world's largest exporter of bananas. Sugarcane, African palm, cacao, balsawood (world's largest exporter), rice and coffee are grown. Food processing, wood products, textiles, sugar. Silver ore is now the chief mineral product. There are large deposits of copper, zinc and I gold. The production of petroleum is increasing. The so-called 'Panama' hats made I of Tequila straw are made in Ecuador.
In Feb. '99, the currency was devalued, following the worst economic crisis in 70 years. The economy had been ravaged by high interest rates, plunging oil prices and EI Nino-related storms and flooding.