Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Ecuador declared war on Japan and granted the United States access to the Galapagos Islands. There the Americans built a military base. From that moment on, Ecuador aligned its foreign policy with that of the United States. By 1950 Ecuador occupied a seat as a nonpermanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council.
At the outbreak of the Korean War, Ecuador voted favorably on the U.S. resolution in the UN to send troops to Korea. Although the government of President Galo Lasso (1948–1952) initially supported the United States, it did not send troops. Relations between the two countries were further tightened in 1952 when Ecuador became the first Latin American nation to sign a mutual defense agreement with the United States. Military cooperation continued until the 1970s, when the United States decided to withdraw its Military Advisory Group from Ecuador because of a conflict involving tuna fishing.
The Guatemalan crisis, however, created a shift in Ecuador's foreign policy. In 1954, President José Velasco Ibarra expressed criticism of the American intervention in Guatemala. During the 1960s, Ecuador sought to maintain neutrality in the East-West conflict but still took part in it. Ecuador's chief concern was not communism in Cuba but rather its own historical border dispute with Peru. Velasco Ibarra wanted a revision to the 1942 Rio Protocol and wanted to take the dispute to the UN. However, the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion led the president to condemn the American action and declare his support of Cuba's Fidel Castro. Later in 1961, when Ibarra was ousted in a coup, Carlos Arosema surprised even his own supporters by establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.
In 1968, Ibarra won the presidency for a fifth time. Unable to implement an austerity program, in 1970 he assumed dictatorial powers. In 1972, however, the Ecuadorian military intervened. It had originally supported Velasco's dictatorship but had been alienated by his management of Ecuadorian oil resources.
The military junta, led by General Guillermo Rodriguez Lara (1972–1976), initiated a state-run development program. Revenues from oil concessions to multinational companies helped finance this economic modernization program, but when the junta fixed production and prices above the standards of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the companies reduced their exports. Although the junta decided to review its oil policy in the mid-1970s, it had lost support among the population and had to call elections in 1978.
In the 1980s, Ecuador again strengthened its ties to the United States. Neoliberal economic programs were planned by President León Febres Cordero (1984–1988), but the consequences of a debt crisis and the 1987 earthquake made it almost impossible to implement them. Febres-Cordero maintained a dual position in relation to other Latin American nations. In 1985 he visited Castro in Cuba and initially supported the peace process in Central America; months later Febres-Cordero broke diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. The fragile relation between Ecuador and Latin America was reversed at the end of the decade when newly elected President Rodrigo Borja (1988–1992) proclaimed a nonaligned foreign policy.
Parkinson, F. Latin America, the Cold War & the World Powers, 1945–1973: A Study in Diplomatic History. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1974.; Schodt, David. Ecuador: An Andean Enigma. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1987.