History, A New Prosperity
Ecuadorians, Oil revenues, presidential candidates, plane crash, international arbitration
Among the first acts of the new regime was establishment of a five-year economic plan, stressing agriculture, housing, and industry. In August 1972 the first exports of petroleum were made from new fields developed and operated by U.S. companies. This made Ecuador, at the time, the second largest exporter of petroleum in Latin America, after Venezuela. Oil revenues provided Ecuador with badly needed foreign exchange and investment funds, which produced a decade of nearly uninterrupted prosperity and rapid economic growth, but also spurred inflation and increased the gap between rich and poor. Increased incomes among the Ecuadorians also led to large imports of consumer goods, which resulted in a foreign indebtedness that reached dangerously high levels.
President Rodriguez was replaced by Admiral Alfredo Poveda Burbano in 1976; he ruled at the head of a three-man junta. In the following years inflationary pressures were somewhat alleviated. A referendum on a new constitution and subsequent presidential elections were held in 1978, and a runoff between the two top presidential candidates followed in 1979. Later that year Jaime Roldos Aguilera was installed as president, and the new constitution took effect. Roldos promised to initiate social and economic reforms, but conservatives in the legislature blocked his program. Another outbreak of border fighting with Peru was ended by international arbitration in March 1981. Two months later Roldos was killed in a plane crash; his brother Leon Roldos Aguilera then was named vice president, as former vice president Osvaldo Hurtado Larrea succeeded to the presidency.
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