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Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador, is a representative-democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border with Brazil. The country also includes the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of the mainland.
The mainstream culture of Ecuador is defined by its Hispanic mestizo majority and, like their ancestry, is traditionally of Spanish heritage influenced by Amerindican traditions and in some cases African elements. The indigenous communities are integrated into the mainstream culture to varying degrees, but some may also practice their own indigenous cultures, particularly the more remote indigenous communities of the Amazon basin. Spanish is spoken as the first language by more than 90% of the population and as first and second languages by more than 98% One part of Ecuador's population can speak Amerindian languages, but just as a second language.
What is now Ecuador formed part of the northern Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in 1533. Quito became a seat of Spanish colonial government in 1563 and part of the Vice-royalty of New Granada in 1717. The territories of the Vice-royalty -- New Granada (Colombia), Venezuela, and Quito -- gained their independence between 1819 and 1822 and formed a federation known as Gran Colombia. 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. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999. Although Ecuador marked 25 years of civilian governance in 2004, the period has been marred by political instability. Protests in Quito have contributed to the mid-term ouster of Ecuador's last three democratically elected Presidents. In September 2008, voters approved a new constitution; Ecuador's twentieth since gaining independence. General elections, under the new constitutional framework, were held in April 2009.
Ecuador's economy has heavily depended on exporting resources such as petroleum, fish, shrimp, timber and gold. In addition, it has rich agriculture: bananas. flowers, coffee, cacao, sugar, tropical fruits, palm oil, palm hearts, rice, roses and corn. The country's greatest national export is crude oil. Fluctuations in world market prices can have a substantial domestic impact. Industry is largely oriented to servicing the domestic market, with some exports to the Andean Community of Nations.
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