In the first half of the 20th century, Ecuador lost territory in a series of conflicts with its neighbours.
In the 1960s, foreign interests developed Ecuador's oil resources and in 1972 a military government seized power.
They used the booming oil economy to industrialise and begin a programme of land reform.
Ecuador returned to democracy in 1979, but by 1982 the economy was failing and a series of presidents failed to bring about stabilisation.
European descendents account for only about 10% of the population and are predominantly wealthy landholders who are largely responsible for the country's unstable political turmoil.
In 199,5 a border war broke out with Peru and this was not resolved until 1999.
Well organised illegal drug-trafficking operations inside Colombia have caused more than 20,000 refugees to flee into Ecuador.
The Ecuadoran flag
Tumultuous and unstable politics has contributed to Ecuador becoming a significant transit point for drug-trafficking from both Colombia and Peru. The adoption of US currency has made Ecuador an attractive area for money laundering.
This hot, humid country is home to snow-capped peaks, fertile valleys and tropical jungle.
Mount Cotopaxi in the Andes is the highest active volcano in the world.
Earthquakes are frequent and often disastrous. In 1949, the city of Ambato was levelled to the ground.
The Galapogos Islands located 1000km of the west coast of South America are part of the Republic of Ecuador.
The oldest of these volcanic islands is believed to be more than four million years old, while the youngest ones are still in the process of being formed.
Charles Darwin's studies of the Galapogos Islands lead to his theories of natural selection. Unesco recognised the islands as a World Heritage Site in 1978 and this was extended to include a marine reserve in 2001. (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gal%E1pagos_Islands)
Official name: Republic of Ecuador
Government type: Republic
Population: 13,363,593 (July 2005 estimate)
Languages: Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua)
Ethnic diversity: Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 65%, Amerindian 25%, Spanish and others 7%, black 3%
Literacy rate: Age 15 and over can read and write (Unicef notes this rate has been stagnant for more then 10 years.)
total population: 92.5%; male: 94%; female: 91% (2003 est).
Religion: Roman Catholic 95%, other 5%.
Ousted Ecuadoran president Lucio
Gutierrez (C) with wife (2ndL)
Political parties and leaders: Concentration of Popular Forces or CFP, Averroes Bucaram; Democratic Left or ID, Guillermo Landazuri; National Action Institutional Renewal Party or PRIAN, Alvaro Noboa; Pachakutik Movement, Gilberto Talahua; Patriotic Society Party or PSP, Lucio Gutierrez Borbua; Popular Democracy or DP, Dr Juan Manuel Fuertes; Popular Democratic Movement or MPD, Gustavo Teran Acosta; Radical Alfarista Front or FRA, Fabian Alarcon, director; Roldosist Party or PRE, Abdala Bucaram Ortiz, director]; Social Christian Party or PSC, Leon Febres Cordero; Socialist Party - Broad Front or PS-FA, Victor Granda.
Political pressure groups and leaders: Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador or CONAIE, Luis Macas, president; Coordinator of Social Movements or CMS, F Napoleon Santos; Federation of Indigenous Evangelists of Ecuador or FEINE, Marco Murillo, president]; National Federation of Indigenous Afro-Ecuatorianos and Peasants or FENOCIN, Pedro De La Cruz, president; Popular Front or FP, Luis Villacis.
International organisation participation includes: CAN, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur (associate), MIGA, MINUSTAH, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNOCI, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTO.
Military branches: Army, Navy (including Naval Infantry, Naval Aviation, Coast Guard), Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Ecuatoriana, FAE)
The new president of Ecuador,
Military manpower - military age: 20 years of age for conscript military service; 12-month service obligation (2004)Military manpower - there are approximately 2,792,770 (2005 est) males aged 20-49 are available for military service.
Location: Western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia and Peru
Area: total: 283,560sq km; land: 276,840sq km; water: 6720sq km (note: includes Galapagos Islands).
Land boundaries: total: 5536 km; border countries: Bolivia 900km, Brazil 1560km, Chile 160km, Colombia 1496km (est), Ecuador 1420km.
Coastline: total: 2237km; border countries: Colombia 590km, Peru 1420km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 200 nm; continental shelf: 100 nm from 2500 meter isobath
Climate: Tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands.
Terrain: Coastal plain (costa), inter-Andean central highlands (sierra), and flat to rolling eastern jungle (oriente)
Natural resources: Petroleum, fish, timber, hydropower
Land use: Arable land: 5.85%; permanent crops: 4.93%; other: 89.22% (2001)
Natural hazards: Frequent earthquakes, landslides, volcanic activity; floods; periodic droughts.
Environment - current issues: Deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution; pollution from oil production wastes in ecologically sensitive areas of the Amazon Basin and Galapagos Islands.
Environment - international agreements: Party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands.
Economy: Although Ecuador has substantial petroleum resources it has been plagued by economic decline in recent years. In 1999, the banking system collapsed and this paved the way for the adoption of the US dollar as the state currency. This somewhat stabilised the economy and growth returned to its pre-crisis levels. Economic reform has been minimal however, and Ecuador is vulnerable to and dependent upon petroleum price fluctuations.
Gross Domestic Product: $3110.81 per person
GDP - real growth rate: 5.8% (2004 estimate)
Industries: Petroleum, food processing, textiles, wood products, chemicals.
Exports: Petroleum, bananas, cut flowers, shrimp.
Imports: Vehicles, medicinal products, telecommunications equipment, electricity.
Labour force: 4.53 million (urban) (2004 estimate)
Labour force by occupation: Agriculture 8%, industry 24%, services 68% (2001)
Unemployment rate: 11.1%; note - underemployment of 47% (2004 estimate)
Currency: Ecuador formally adopted the US dollar as legal tender in March 2000.
Sources: CIA world fact book, Infoplease.com, Nationmaster.com, Wikipedia.org