All eyes on Ecuador's military as anarchy looms
Ousted president vows he'd 'rather die than resign'
February 8, 1997
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 GMT)
QUITO, Ecuador (CNN) -- As Ecuador's political crisis
deepens, the country is looking to the military to avert
disintegration into anarchy.
So far, the army has refrained from taking sides in the
dispute. Defense Minister Gen. Victor Bayas resigned
Saturday, underscoring the army's neutrality and leaving
President Abdala Bucaram alone at the top of a shaky six-
A new minister will be named by whomever becomes president.
But the ultimate powerbroker here continues to be the
military. Even after 17 years of civilian rule, whoever ends
up being president still needs the backing of the armed
forces to govern.
A headline in Saturday's Quito newspaper Hoy reflected the
powerful role of the armed forces: "Where is the hero?" it
said, referring to Moncayo, known as "the hero of Cenepa,"
the jungle border area that Peru and Ecuador fought over two
Moncayo is immensely popular because his troops successfully
resisted Peru's much larger army during the brief conflict.
Last year, there were rumors he was considering a coup
because of his disgust with Ecuador's political leaders.
"The eyes of the whole country are turned to the chief of the
joint command of the armed forces," the newspaper said.
Rather die than resign
Congress voted 44-34 Thursday to remove Bucaram for "mental
His foes in Congress accused Bucaram, who calls himself "El
Loco," or "The Crazy One," of worsening the country's
economic ills with his erratic behavior and political
Bucaram has refused to step down, vowing to remain in office
until his term officially ends in 2000.
The president said Saturday that he would rather die than be
forced from office. "They want to get me out of the
presidency. [But] I swear on my children, on my family and on
my country that I'd rather die than resign," he said in a
speech to supporters in a working class district on the
outskirts of Guayaquil.
The Pacific coast city is Bucaram's home and political power
base. Bucaram also told the crowd he is planning to run for
re-election, even though Ecuador's constitution bars anyone
from serving two consecutive terms as president.
Clashes in the capital Quito escalated Saturday, with groups
of people outside the Congress chanting support for various
claimants to the presidency.
Few were speaking on behalf of Bucaram. "We can not stand
anymore like him...the worst corruption in the history of
Ecuador," said protester Maria Clara Barrera.
Congressional leader Fabian Alarcon insists he's entitled to
the job. He convened Saturday a special session of Congress
to elect some of the new government officials.
And then there's Ecuador's Vice President Rosalia Arteaga,
who insists she has the legal right to secede Bucaram.
"I speak based on the constitution, and on legality and on
popular mandate," she said.
Arteaga was the only one of three contenders to meet with the
joint military command, setting off rumors that she may be
favored by the military as a compromise candidate to assume
Correspondent Harris Whitbeck and Reuters contributed to this report.
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