Ecuador and the United States

Ecuador and the United States: Useful Strangers

Ronn Pineo
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 276
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    Ecuador and the United States
    Book Description:

    This history of relations between Ecuador and the United States is a revealing case study of how a small, determined country has exploited its marginal status when dealing with a global superpower. Ranging from Ecuador's struggle for independence in the 1820s and 1830s to the present day, the book examines the misunderstandings, tensions, and--from the U.S. perspective--often unintended consequences that have sometimes arisen in relations between the two countries. Such interactions included U.S. efforts in Ecuador to stem yellow fever, build railroads, and institute economic reforms. Many of the two countries' exchanges in the twentieth century stemmed from the global disruptions of World War II and the cold war. More recently, Ecuadorian and U.S. interests have been in contest over fishing rights, foreign development of Ecuadorian oil resources, and Ecuador's emergence as a transit country in the drug trade. Ronn Pineo looks at these and other issues within the context of how the United States, usually preoccupied with other concerns, has often disregarded Ecuador's internal race, class, and geographical divisions when the two countries meet on the global stage. On the whole, argues Pineo, the two countries have operated effectively as "useful strangers" throughout their mutual history. Ecuador has never been merely a passive recipient of U.S. policy or actions, and factions within Ecuador, especially regional ones, have long seen the United States as a potential ally in domestic political disputes. The United States has influenced Ecuador, but often only in ways Ecuadorians themselves want. This book is about the dynamics of power in the relations between a very large if distracted nation when dealing with a very small but determined nation, an investigation that reveals a great deal about both.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3726-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    To some, the story of Ecuadorian-U.S. relations might appear to be a tale that does not need to be told. The United States has long regarded Ecuador as one of the least important Latin American nations, although Ecuador is larger than many people may suppose. While it is geographically small (about 100,000 square miles, or about the size of the state of Oregon), Ecuador has a surprisingly large population; at nearly thirteen million, Ecuador today has a population larger than each of the nations of Central America and the Caribbean, and Ecuador is nearly as populous as Chile.

    Nonetheless, it...

  6. 1 From Colonies to Young Republics: Independence to the 1850s
    (pp. 12-37)

    Relations between Latin America and the United States developed slowly and sporadically from the days of independence to the mid-nineteenth century. As a young nation the United States focused its interest chiefly on those Latin American lands adjacent to its borders, and by the mid-nineteenth century a good deal of that territory would come to reside within U.S. borders. South America tended to matter a good deal less to the United States, and Ecuador, small and remote, figured perhaps least of all in U.S. thinking.

    The logistics of travel did little to encourage the development of ties between the United...

  7. 2 Establishing an Unsettling Relationship: The 1850s to the 1890s
    (pp. 38-61)

    During the first half of the nineteenth century Ecuador had maintained a generally positive outlook regarding the United States. Even the U.S. invasion of Mexico (1846–48) did not evoke negative comment from Ecuador, at least initially. Context was everything, and the Mexican War came just as Ecuador was facing Flores’s first invasion attempt. The United States had promised military support, Ecuadorian leaders believed, and although U.S. officials had not actually said this, the belief that they had led Ecuador to overlook U.S. actions in Mexico.

    But elsewhere in Latin America, U.S. imperialism was already evoking concern. Some Caribbean and...

  8. 3 The Railroad Age: The 1890s to the 1920s
    (pp. 62-92)

    Although Ecuador had developed only a limited relationship with the United States during the nineteenth century, this situation began to change at the turn of the century. Ecuador’s cacao exports soared from 1895 to 1925 and ties to the United States grew stronger. By 1915 the United States had become the number one buyer of Ecuadorian exports, a position it retains today. Ecuador’s import trade rose as well, and by the 1890s the United States was a leading source; by the end of World War I the United States was by far the most important supplier, a position it also...

  9. 4 Economic Collapse and War: The 1920s to the 1940s
    (pp. 93-131)

    The 1920s through the 1940s were perhaps Ecuador’s most difficult years, a time of deep economic, political, and foreign policy crises. World market conditions shifted, destroying Ecuador’s once-prosperous cacao economy, and the sharp decline in commerce contributed generously to a state of continual political chaos. It was also a time of extraordinarily poor leaders, men who foolishly steered Ecuador into a disastrous conflict with Peru. When the war was over, Ecuador had surrendered half its national territory.

    In these years the United States came to be more involved with Ecuador than ever before. Washington now wanted more from Ecuador—debt...

  10. 5 The Cold War in Ecuador: The 1940s to the 1960s
    (pp. 132-171)

    With the end of World War II and the worsening of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, U.S. policy makers came to place the threat they perceived from international communism above all other foreign policy concerns. Over time this fixation became all consuming. During the 1950s the U.S. secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, held annual meetings in Washington, D.C., with all the Latin American ambassadors, and his theme was always the same: anticommunism. In October 1957 Dulles brought in the Latin American ambassadors and lectured them on the nature of the Soviet menace. Not once did...

  11. 6 Tuna, Oil, and Trouble: The 1960s to the 1980s
    (pp. 172-188)

    The decades of 1960s through the 1980s brought serious difficulties to relations between Ecuador and the United States. Two major controversies developed, and economic issues stood at the center of both. A continuing conflict developed regarding Ecuador’s claims to a two-hundred-mile territorial sea boundary. Ecuador wanted to reserve for itself the amazingly rich fishing zones off its coastline, waters fed by the Humboldt Current, which abounds in tuna and other sea life. When, in defiance of Ecuadorian law, U.S.-owned fishing boats began to push in anyway, Ecuador seized the vessels and assessed heavy fines. The U.S. government retaliated with cuts...

  12. 7 Democratization and Neoliberalism: The 1980s to the Present
    (pp. 189-216)

    The cold war ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and U.S. foreign policy became preoccupied with other issues. One leading U.S. concern in Latin America was the production and export of illegal drugs. However, the United States focused its attention on the nations that supply and process cocaine, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, not on Ecuador, which took part only in the money-laundering part of the trade. Another key U.S. concern in Latin America was undocumented immigration, but U.S. efforts concentrated on Mexico, the leading source of immigrants. As in the past, U.S. foreign policy concerns did...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 217-220)

    In mid-July 2006, on the eve of what proved to be yet another rancorous presidential campaign, Álvaro Noboa, twice a candidate for Ecuador’s highest office, contemplated withdrawing from the race, explaining that there was little likelihood that any president could complete a four-year term.

    This was a sobering reminder of the political uncertainties and dangers in seeking power in Ecuador, whose people celebrated a quarter century of civilian rule in 2004 but in the decade since 1997 witnessed nine men enter and exit the presidential office. Little wonder, then, that many Ecuadorians—some out of nostalgia for the stability of...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 221-244)
  15. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 245-254)

    This essay offers recommendations for further readings on the history of Ecuador and on Ecuadorian and Latin America relations with the United States. For an unabridged bibliography on Ecuador, consult Michael T. Hamerly, “Bibliografía historica del Ecuador,” Latin American Studies Section on Ecuador, 2000,

    There are several good guides to the literature on U.S./Latin America relations, including Richard Dean Burns, ed., Guide to American Foreign Relations Since 1700 (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1983); Robert L. Beisner, ed., American Foreign Relations since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, 2 vols. (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2003); David F. Trask, Michael C....

  16. Index
    (pp. 255-260)