Indeed, in January 1978 the population was called upon to speak out by referendum on a new Constitution (approved, and then promulgated in August 1979) and in the following July free presidential elections were held, repeated in April 1979 for the nullity of their first outcome. The elected president, Jaime Roldós Aguilera, then embarked on a vigorous policy of reforms, but new unknowns opened up about the Ecuadorian situation with his sudden death in a plane crash (May 1981). The instability that had characterized the country until Aguilera’s election, the resurgence of nationalism, economic liberalization and the policy of austerity accentuated the weakness of the executive. In this context, in the presidential elections of 1996 the candidate of the Roldosista Party (PRE) Abdalá Bucaram was elected by surprise., which in the first round had scrapped only 22% of the votes. According to usaers, Bucaram had managed to catalyze the attention of a population reduced to poverty despite the wealth of the country’s resources.
As soon as he took office, however, the new president showed evident signs of incongruity for the decision to dismantle all the social safety nets and one of his first measures was the abnormal increase (between 150 and 600%) in electricity tariffs (January 1997). The explosion of the popular protest was immediate with the proclamation of a strike that paralyzed Ecuador, while Bucaram found nothing better than to take to the streets in support of the strikers. Renamed el loco (the madman), the president did not manage to reverse the situation, however, and Congress dismissed him “for physical and mental incapacity”, appointing in his place the president of the Parliamentary Assembly Fabián Alarcon Rivera. A very delicate phase then took place as the vice-president, Mrs Rosalía Arteaga, also claimed the presidential office with strong constitutional provisions and was also convinced of the support of the army. Bucaram’s escape (February 1997) reduced the dispute to only two protagonists, but Congress confirmed the interim assignment to Alarcon in a country on the brink of civil war and a possible new military pronouncement. In November 1997, elections were held for the Constituent Assembly, which decreed the majority of seats in the Social Christian Party (PSC), advocate of a plan to oppose rampant corruption, and only in July of the following year was the new president of the Republic and head of government elected, the democrat Jamil Mahuad Witt, who as the first act of his government reached a peace agreement with the Peru (October 26, 1998), for the definition of 80 km of border. The government of Mahuad, however, was facing one of the most difficult periods for Ecuador, now plunged into an unprecedented economic crisis, aggravated also by the heavy losses following the continuous and disastrous floods.
To calm public opinion, the emergency measures promoted by President Mahuad, who had arranged an economic recovery plan, aimed at reactivating and re-establishing territorial infrastructures and blocking unemployment, were of no avail. through the increase of public works. In early 2000, Mahuad’s replacement of the sucre, the local currency, with the dollar, caused the general indignation of the Indians who, supported by the military, invaded the capital asking for the dismissal of the president. The armed forces, therefore, taking advantage of the climate created, forced President Mahuad to flee, replacing him with Vice President Gustavo Noboa, who was committed to the rehabilitation of the country and the fight against corruption, proposing as a first step, on the road to reform, the decentralization of government offices. However, the measures launched by Noboa to deal with the severe Ecuadorian economic crisis triggered by the dollarization of the national economy caused intense protests throughout the country. After some street mobilizations, on February 3, 2001 Noboa declared a state of emergency, revoked shortly after political agreements reached with the representatives of the demonstrators. The presidential elections took place between October and November 2002, in which ex-colonel Lucio Gutiérrez, who had the better of the populist Álvaro Noboa, in the ballot. Two years earlier the new president had led the revolt of the Indians against Mahaud. In autumn 2003 and spring 2004, the country was repeatedly blocked by strikes and street demonstrations which aggravated political and social instability. The protests resumed in April 2005, against the reform project of the Constitutional Court presented by Gutiérrez, and led to clashes in the streets and the dismissal of the president, replaced by his deputy Alfredo Palacio. In November 2006 the presidential elections were held, which were won by the candidate of the left and former minister of the economy, Rafael Correa Delgado who defeated the challenger, the entrepreneur Alvaro Noboa. In 2007 the Constituent Assembly met for the first time, wanted by President Correa and approved by a popular referendum, to change the Constitution, at the root of the country’s political instability. In March 2008, the Colombian air force crossed into Ecuadorian territory for an operation against the FARC; President Correa withdrew the ambassador and deployed troops along the border. In April 2009, the president won the presidential elections in the first round, winning the right to a second term.