Military deserts Ecuador's 'loco' leader

Ecuador'S defence minister resigned yesterday amid reports that the military had withdrawn all support from the government of President Abdala Bucaram. A ministry statement gave no reason for Victor Bayas's sudden decision to join three other cabinet officials, including Energy Minister Alfredo Adum, who have walked out on Mr Bucaram in the last 48 hours.

Mr Bayas declared a nationwide state of emergency on Friday to quell anti-Bucaram protests. The ousted president, who relished the nickname "El Loco" (the Madman) until Congress deemed him such on Thursday, was refusing to step down last night. True to form, he challenged his would- be successor to a fist-fight at dusk to decide who should run the country.

The Andean nation, gateway to the Galapagos and named by the Spanish conquistadores for the fact that it straddles the equator, is in chaos, with three people claiming to be president. The confusion, and bloody street clashes, raised the spectre of a military takeover that could set the nation back 20 years. "Bucaram no longer has the support of the military high command," Radio Quito said, citing sources close to senior military officials. The country's Catholic bishops were among those suggesting last night that the military get involved to solve the impasse, threatening to split Ecuadoreans along the traditional cultural divide between the Andes and the Pacific coast.

In addition to Mr Bucaram, 45, who took office only last August, the Speaker of Congress, Fabian Alarcon, 49, was claiming to be president. He was appointed interim head of state, pending new elections, after Congress decided on Thursday that Mr Bucaram's eccentric style of rule rendered him "mentally incompetent" to hold office. Also claiming the presidency was Rosalia Arteaga, 40, Mr Bucaram's vice-president.

After barricading himself in the presidential palace in Quito during two days of general strikes and street protests against him, Mr Bucaram slipped away on Friday night to his home city of Guayaquil, on the Pacific coast, where his support is strongest. To wild cheers from his followers, he called on "Alarcon the usurper" to show up last night for a "man-to- man" confrontation.

"I don't accept that kind of dare," Mr Alarcon replied in Quito, where he and other protesters had been driven back from the presidential palace on Friday by riot police with tear gas. One person was killed.

Despite his nickname, even his opponents considered Mr Bucaram more of a buffoon than a madman, and there was widespread criticism of what Mr Bucaram called the "congressional coup d'etat" against him. President Carlos Menem of Argentina warned that the congressional vote, using an obscure law on "mental competence" rather than an exhaustive impeachment process, could set a dangerous precedent under which any group of legislators could oust an elected president.

Trained as a lawyer, and holding a post-graduate degree in physical education, Mr Bucaram made his name as a young civil servant in Guayaquil when he drove around on a motorbike on a moral crusade "to clean up the city". He was known to have ordered local girls to let down the hems of their miniskirts.

As president, he was said to favour the reverse of that policy. Residents of Quito said he could be seen walking around incognito late at night, visiting nightclubs and taking women home to a hotel he preferred over the presidential palace. His CD Madman in Love became a major hit and he performed "Jailhouse Rock" in Spanish on television, flanked by miniskirted dancers. For the voters, however, the straw that broke the camel's back was when he raised basic utilities prices last month by 300 per cent.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
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

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Chosen to lead the women's wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, the wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding the 90-year old
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution