Advertisement

Assad Bucaram, one of Ecuador's most powerful politicians who...

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador -- Assad Bucaram, one of Ecuador's most powerful politicians who guided the husband of his niece to the presidency he could never win for himself, died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 65.

Bucaram was a rough-talking populist who built a mass movement around the Concentration of Popular Forces, the party he took over and ruled for 22 years.

Advertisement

He helped end the domination of Ecuadorean politics by two traditional parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, but was never able to win the presidency he coveted.

When his party finally swept into power with a landslide election victory in 1979, it was Jaime Roldos, husband of Bucaram's niece Martha, who became president.

Bucaram, the son of Lebanese immigrants, had been barred from the presidential race the previous year by the military junta that set up the election and required all candidates to be the offspring of native-born Ecuadoreans.

Roldos broke with his political mentor almost as soon as he assumed the presidency, setting off a bitter feud with congress which was controlled by Bucaram.

A plane crash killed Roldos and his wife May 24. By that time, he had managed to break Bucaram's hold on the legislature and split the Concentration of Popular Forces, leaving Bucaram with remnant of the party, failing health and dwindling public support.

Advertisement

Born in the mountain city of Ambato, Bucaram was a traveling salesman and head of a Guayaquil soccer club before going into politics. He built a fanatical following among the poor people of Guayaquil and was twice elected mayor of that city.

He was sent into exile several times by governments that feared his ability to arouse the masses against his favorite target -- the 'oligarchy' or ruling class.

Bucaram sprinkled his speeches with such rough language that political opponents called him a 'churl' and 'the sewer that talks.' His followers responded that he was 'a churl with a noble heart.'

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement