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Ecuador: Stable, oil rich after years of turmoil

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Almost 12 million people are eligible to vote in Ecuador's presidential election on Sunday, with President Rafael Correa tipped to win re-election by a landslide.

Here are facts about the Andean nation:

GEOGRAPHY

Flanked by Colombia to the north and Peru to the south and east, Ecuador covers 256,370 square kilometers. It is a mountainous nation on South America's Pacific coast and home to the famous Galapagos island. Its capital, Quito, is 2,800 meters (9,186 feet) above sea level and its industrial hub is the port of Guayaquil.

POPULATION, RELIGION, LANGUAGES

Almost one-third of its 15.4 million people are indigenous while 55 percent are of mixed race. Around 85 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. The official language is Spanish but several indigenous languages, including Quechua, are spoken.

HISTORY

Ecuador was part of the northern Inca empire until it was invaded by Spain in the 16th century. It was under Spanish rule until 1822, when it became part of the Gran Colombia federation of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar. It became an independent republic in 1830. The election of President Jaime Roldos Aguilera in 1979 brought an end to military rule. Between 1996 until Correa took office in 2007, Ecuador had shuffled through seven presidents, including three who were ousted in various revolts.

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS

Ecuador has a president and a unicameral Congress with four-year terms each. Correa was first elected in 2006 and was re-elected again in 2009 in an election that was called after the adoption of a socialist-inspired constitution that gave the state more sway over the economy.

ECONOMY

Ecuador is the smallest member of the OPEC oil cartel, producing 504,000 barrels of oil per day. Crude is its first export and its main customer is the United States. It is also the world's top exporter of bananas and an important producer of coffee and cocoa. The per capita income stood at $1,932 dollars in 2012, according to the central bank. The jobless rate reached five percent last year while 16 percent of the population lives in poverty. The external debt totaled $9.9 billion in 2009, or 19.7 percent of national output. The US dollar has been the official currency since March 2000, when it replaced the sucre.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130215/ecuador-stable-oil-rich-after-years-turmoil