Liberalism in Ecuador: Constitutional, Institutional Instability

Posted on July 15, 2016 • Filed under: Ecuador, Politics, Social Issues

Liberalism in Ecuador: In Search of a Constitution
Johanna E. Andrango, Diego F. Grijalva and Pedro P. Romero
May 19, 2016
Ecuador is not a society that upholds classical liberal values. Since its inception as a republic
in 1830, the country has had twenty constitutions with an average duration of nine years, that
is, sightly over two presidential terms. Why has liberalism not taken root in Ecuador? In this
paper we argue that the main reason is the lack of a constitutional tradition that reduces the
stakes of power. This is problematic because it leads to constitutions that are customized to
the current ruling coalition. Together, these characteristics lead society to an ongoing process
of constitutional instability that generates uncertainty undermining society’s grasp of liberal
values and economic development.

1 Introduction
Liberalism has not taken root in Ecuador. After close to two centuries of the country’s republican
foundation in 1830, the promotion and enhancement of individuals’ freedom remains limited. Furthermore,
there is no sign of a consistent movement towards liberalism as the country has fluctuated
between (more or less) liberal and illiberal periods. Under current President Rafael Correa’s socialist
project, the nation has gone through a deeply illiberal period. In line with (Zakaria, 1997)’s
description of an illiberal democracy as one lacking \constitutional liberalism”, Correa’s government
has bypassed the separation of powers and the rule of law, and severely limited basic liberties of
speech, assembly, and property.
Here, we argue that a key reason for the lack of a clear path towards liberalism in Ecuador has
been the absence of an institutional structure to sustain it. This institutional void, in turn, has
impeded the rise of a liberal culture that promotes liberalism and its underlying institutions, and
that protects them within a virtuous circle. The main representation of the lack of institutional stability
is the repeated constitutional changes that Ecuador has experienced throughout its republican
period. We thus focus on these changes and the proposals made in each constitution from a liberal
The paper is structured as follows. We first provide evidence that Ecuador’s liberal and illiberal
shifts are associated with constitutional changes and conclude that there is no institutional basis
for liberalism to be sustained. Second, we provide a brief historical analysis of the Ecuadorian
constitutions emphasizing shifts along three dimensions of liberalism: political, economic, and social.
This serves to illustrate and support our main point. Third, we delve into a discussion of the reasons
for the instability

If you are thinking of moving to Ecuador, you should consider reading this book, it will provide you substantial cultural information not available in other sources.

5 Conclusion
With 20 constitutions, Ecuador is among the countries that have had the most constitutions in
the world. The original exclusions enshrined in the rst constitutions of the Ecuadorian republic gave rise to high-stakes politics and a political competition based on the control of the state for
self-benefit. The lack of legitimate institutional means to channel discontent led to political
conflict and instability, as shown by the short-lived constitutions. This lack of institutions (or possibly the
existence of instability as an institution) did not allow liberalism to take root in the country, with
liberal institutions appearing and disappearing over time. As a consequence, liberalism never really
had a chance to penetrate informal institutions and Ecuadorian culture. Neither institutions nor
culture provide support for it.
The original exclusion and inequality limited the ability of constitutions to provide a basis for
liberalism. On the contrary, they provided support for the rise of illiberal ideas: how are the high
stakes associated with political competition controlled if it is not with a strong leader? The current
government of Rafael Correa has followed precisely this logic, accompanying it with a political discourse that emphasizes precisely the historical lack of inclusion and equality in Ecuador. Regretfully,this has led to a destruction of Ecuador’s mild political, economic, and social institutions, which will need to be rebuilt in the following years. But, for the foreseeable future, liberalism’s appeal looks limited as the institutions needed to sustain it are in short supply. READ ENTIRE PAPER (30 PAGES) PDF.

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