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Ecuador and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations in 1969, but it was not until 1972, when Ecuador joined OPEC, that the Soviets showed much interest in Ecuador. By the mid-1970s, the Soviet Union maintained an embassy in Quito rivaling in importance that of the United States.
Ecuador traditionally favored multilateral approaches to international problems. It belonged to the UN, the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), the OAS, and other regional integration groupings, such as the Latin American Economic System (Sistema Económica Latinoamericano--SELA), the Latin American Energy Organization, the Latin American Integration Association, and the Andean Pact. Ecuador--along with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and Peru--signed the Andean Pact and the Cartagena Agreement in 1969, creating an Andean Common Market. In 1978 Ecuador and seven other South American countries signed the Amazon Pact treaty for the joint development of the Amazon River Basin.
Febres Cordero, however, took exception to Ecuador's traditional multilateralism. Impatient with regional and multilateral arrangements, he opposed the clause in the Andean Pact that restricted foreign investment, and sought to have it liberalized. To that end, Ecuador threatened several times to withdraw from the Andean Pact. It did not send a representative to the 1986 meeting of the group's foreign ministers in Uruguay. The Febres Cordero government also kept a low profile in the OAS, the SELA, and the Cartagena Group.
Praised as "realistic and pragmatic" by some, Febres Cordero's foreign policy was criticized as "erratic and incongruous" by others. Evidence supporting both these views could be found in his government's relations with Cuba and Nicaragua and his positions on Latin American issues. On April 16, 1985, Febres Cordero became the first conservative Latin American president to visit Cuba since Fidel Castro Ruz took power twenty-six years earlier. The Ecuadorian president reportedly talked at length with Castro about ways to ease the region's foreign debt burden and bring peace to Central America.
The Febres Cordero government kept its distance, however, from most of the region's initiatives to promote Latin American solidarity. In October 1985, Ecuador joined the so-called Lima Group of four South American nations--Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay--supporting the search for peace in Central America initiated by the Contadora Group (consisting of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama, whose ministers first met in 1983 on Contadora Island in the Gulf of Panama). Nonetheless, Ecuador not only withdrew from the Lima Group later that month, but also became the first Latin American nation to break diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. The break in relations, which came suddenly after Febres Cordero and Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega Saavedra traded public insults, had the unintended effect of isolating Ecuador from other Latin American countries. Some observers also viewed it as Febres Cordero's response to the United States' request for a blockade of international aid to Nicaragua.
In his inaugural address, Borja vowed to pursue an independent, nonaligned foreign policy based on the principles of selfdetermination and nonintervention. He believed that Latin American unity should take priority over ideological differences. Accordingly, he invited both Ortega and Castro to his inauguration ceremony on August 10. Castro attended the event, but Febres Cordero refused to allow Ortega into the country, except as a tourist. Consequently, Ortega delayed his arrival in Quito until August 11, by which time Borja, in one of his first official acts as head of state, had restored diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. Borja also expanded the relationship that Febres Cordero had initiated with Cuba, allowing some Cuban and Nicaraguan advisers to assist in Ecuador's National Literacy Program. In addition, he criticized the policy of isolating Cuba from international forums, such as the UN and OAS.
Borja also endorsed the establishment of an OPEC common front to defend oil prices, to fulfill the obligations that Ecuador assumed in the modifying protocol of the Cartagena Agreement, and to reincorporate Ecuador into the group of Latin American countries supporting the Central American peace process. The Borja government anticipated good relations with Venezuela, another OPEC member whose president, Carlos Andrés Pérez, was Borja's closest associate in the region. In early 1989, however, the Group of Eight (the eight democratic Latin American countries which belonged to the former Contadora or Lima Groups) rejected Ecuador's bid for membership. Nevertheless, in June 1989 Colombian president Virgilio Barco Vargas invited Ecuador to replace Panama in the Group of Eight. In September 1989, Borja stated publicly his belief that General Manuel Antonio Noriega, Panama's de facto leader as commander of the Panama Defense Forces, should step down, but added that he opposed United States military intervention to depose him.
A protracted border dispute continued to strain relations between Ecuador and Peru. The approximately 200,000-squarekilometer area of the Amazon (the Marañón district), which Ecuador had claimed since the nineteenth century, contained the city of Iquitos on the west bank of the Amazon River and also Peru's main jungle petroleum-producing region. Since 1960, when Ecuador's president Velasco declared invalid the Rio Protocol, under which the area was recognized as Peru's, Ecuador had continued to assert its right to the disputed region and to emphasize its need for an outlet to the Atlantic via the Amazon River. A small border war with Peru broke out on January 28, 1981, in the Condor mountain range, which runs along the border between the Amazon Basin and Ecuador. After Peruvian forces drove Ecuadorian troops back from the border posts, a ceasefire came into effect on February 1. A commission composed of the military attachés of the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, who helped negotiate the cease-fire, was charged with supervising the border area. Most Ecuadorians, however, supported their government's efforts to obtain a revision of the 1942 protocol.
As a vice president of the Socialist International, Borja enjoyed good relations with several West European countries. He was particularly close to Portuguese President Mario Lopes Soares, who attended his inauguration. The French-speaking Ecuadorian president was also a long-time admirer of France's president François Mitterrand, whose wife Danielle attended the installation ceremony on behalf of France. The deputy prime minister of Spain also attended, as did representatives from the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and Sweden. The Soviet Union and China were also represented at the inauguration. The Borja government reaffirmed Ecuador's support for the rights of the Palestinian people and for a peaceful, just, and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict within the framework of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and an international conference under UN auspices. Borja attended the NAM summit in Yugoslavia in September 1989.
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