Fears as 'El Loco' stands firm

Rival claims to presidency put Ecuador army on alert

Ecuador's President Abdala Bucaram, who encourages the nickname "El Loco" (the madman), was barricaded inside the presidential palace last night after Congress ruled he was "mentally incapacitated".

Thousands of angry demonstrators, including Congressmen led by the newly declared President, Fabian Alarcon, marched on the palace, threatening a confrontation with riot police and troops.

Riot police had earlier used tear gas to prevent anti- Bucaram protesters clambering over barbed wire towards the building on Independence Square. They were demanding that Mr Bucaram step down because of his eccentric behaviour, alleged corruption and turn-round on economic policies. Police said an 18-year-old student, Patricio Uyumbillo, died of unknown causes during the disturbances. Opposition politicians said Mr Uyumbillo's skull had been fractured by a tear-gas canister.

The defence minister, Victor Bayas, a retired army general, declared a state of emergency but, since he formed part of Mr Bucaram's cabinet, the status of his declaration was unclear.

After voting against Mr Bucaram last Thursday night, Congress had sworn in its own Speaker, Mr Alarcon, as interim president until new elections could be held. But Mr Bucaram said he would not recognise" a congressional coup d'etat". To complicate matters, his vice-president, Rosalia Arteaga, also declared herself president, leaving three people claiming to be head of state of the South American nation of 11.7 million people. The Argentine President, Carlos Menem, was quick to support Mr Bucaram, noting that the Ecuadorean Congress's unusual move could set a dangerous precedent in Latin America.

The palace was surrounded by troops. It was not clear which way they would turn. With the country's democracy only 18 years old, the commanders of the armed forces were quick to stress yesterday that they did not want to take over.

"This situation is very serious. There cannot be a power vacuum. There must be a rapid, legal solution. The armed forces are not going to take power," the army commander, General Paco Moncayo, said. Political analysts in Quito, however, said they may have to to resolve the impasse.

Despite Ecuador's relatively recent experiences of military dictatorships, General Moncayo is popular in Ecuador and would be likely to lead the country should the military step in. Mr Bucaram, who took office last August after a clear election victory on a populist platform, accused Congress of staging a conspiracy and an illegal coup against him in its Thursday night vote. The 82-member Congress voted 44-34, with two abstentions and two members absent, that he was "mentally incapacitated".

Despite the "mental incapacity" legal measure, and his nickname, few believe that Mr Bucaram is mad. No one denies his eccentricity. Despite this week's protests, he still has strong support among the poor and the Indians, although that was eroded by January's austerity measures, including a 60 per cent rise in bus fares.

He was a lawyer, with a post-graduate degree in physical education, before being elected mayor of Guayaquil, in the early Eighties. In the present stand-off, he may regret having said in 1985 that the military was a waste of money and "only good for marching in parades".

In a last-minute effort to save his skin on Thursday, he said many of the price rises would be rescinded and that he was sacking key cabinet ministers, including his brother, Adolfo, Minister of Social Welfare.

Congress's move against him may actually boost sympathy for Mr Bucaram among the poor. His eccentricities were widely accepted, even applauded until he reversed his populist policies. Calling himself "the madman" helped him win the election. Many loved it when he recorded his compact disc, Madman in Love, with a cover picture of him in the presidential sash.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism