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Ecuador'S defence minister resigned yesterday amid reports that the military had withdrawn all support from the government of President Abdala Bucaram.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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks