History, Presidential Crisis
Abdala Bucaram, Bucaram, impeachment proceedings, general strike, mental incapacity
In 1996 voters elected Abdala Bucaram, a populist, as president. Bucaram, who received much of his support from the poorer members of society, campaigned against corruption and opposed the tight fiscal policies that were being implemented in many Latin American countries. However, after the elections, Bucaram retreated from his populist campaign position and introduced austere measures designed to curb Ecuador’s rampant inflation. This cost him much support among the poor, a problem that was compounded by charges that he had engaged in nepotism and corruption. Within six months Bucaram’s administration was widely unpopular.
Up to 2 million citizens took part in a general strike on February 5, 1997, with more than 10,000 surrounding the Congress building and calling for impeachment proceedings. On February 6 the National Congress voted to remove Bucaram for “mental incapacity.” Congress voted to replace Bucaram with Fabian Alarcon, president of the Congress, but Alarcon’s succession to the presidency was challenged by Bucaram and by Vice President Rosalia Arteaga Serrano, who claimed the right, as vice president, to succeed Bucaram. A compromise allowed Arteaga to serve briefly as interim president, but she stepped aside following a second vote by Congress on February 11, in which it became apparent that Alarcon had enough support to assume the presidency by amending the constitution. In April 1998 Arteaga resigned as vice president and was replaced by Pedro Aguayo.
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