- Ecuador encapsulates many of Latin America’s current policy debates
- President Lenin Moreno is shifting away from his predecessor’s free-spending ways
- The government is also trying to reduce dependence on Chinese trade and investment
- This transition is politically ticklish and has already split the ruling coalition
Ecuador is a small country, with a population just under 17 million and an economy that generates a bit over $100 billion in goods and services. It does not have the soft power aspirations of Uruguay or Costa Rica, two other small countries in Latin America. Yet, at the moment, Ecuador seems to be the perfect model for studying the cross-currents – international, political, economic, and social – that are battering countries throughout the region.
Ecuador is a multiracial society – 25 percent of the population is indigenous, 55 percent is mestizo, 10 percent is of African descent, and only 10 percent considers itself white or Caucasian. The country’s economy depends on the production and export of primary products. Like several of its regional peers, Ecuador is deeply indebted to Chinese firms for the development of its infrastructure and relies on Chinese buyers for its export commodities.
Most important, it is a country now immersed in Latin America’s crucial policy debates: how to balance sound institutions versus personalistic governance, reduce poverty while remaining fiscally responsible, and maintain good relations with regional neighbors and global powers, including China and the United States.