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Ecuador
Facts
Area: 272,045 sq km
Population: 13.6 million
Languages: Spanish
Religions: Christian
GNI per capita: US$3,640
Currency: 1 US dollar = 100 cents
 
What is now Ecuador formed part of the northern Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in 1533. Its capital, Quito, became a seat of Spanish colonial government in 1563. When Quito withdrew in 1830, the traditional name was changed in favor of the "Republic of the Equator." 
 
Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors.
 
Its climate ranges from desert heat to alpine cold. Two parallel mountain formations, running north to south, divide the country into three distinct geographic areas that differ from each other culturally and politically. West of the mountains, a coastal plain lies along the Pacific Ocean. This region—where 35 percent of the population lives—is generally hot and humid. Most of Ecuador’s tropical export products are grown here.
 
Traditionally a farming country, Ecuador's economy was transformed after the 1960s by the growth of industry and the discovery of oil. There was rapid growth and progress in health, education and housing. 
 
But by the end of the 20th century a combination of factors, including falling oil prices and damage caused by the weather phenomenon El Nino, had driven the economy into recession. 
Inflation, which had become the highest in the region, led the government to replace the national currency with the US dollar in an effort to curtail it. 
 
Steps to stabilize the economy, such as austerity measures and privatization, have generated widespread unrest, particularly among the indigenous poor. 
 
Approximately one-third of the labor force is engaged in agriculture. Growing grain and raising livestock are the key activities, but cocoa, sugar, rice, coffee, and bananas also are important products. Manufacturing ranks second as a source of employment.
 
The inhabitants of Ecuador have worked hard to improve the quality of their lives, particularly in the areas of health care and disease prevention. They have succeeded in eliminating the occurrence of yellow fever, while also reducing incidences of malaria and tuberculosis. However, there is still more work to be done.
 
Malnutrition is a serious problem and the infant mortality rate remains high. 

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