Abdalá Jaime Bucaram Ortiz ( pronunciation ahb-dah-LAH boo-kah-RAHM; born February 4, 1952) is an Ecuadorian politician and lawyer who was President of Ecuador from August 10, 1996 to February 6, 1997. As President, Abdalá Bucaram was nicknamed "El Loco" ("the mad man," a nickname he himself championed) and was removed from office after being declared mentally unfit to rule by the National Congress of Ecuador. Bucaram and his followers claim that all cases against him have been dismissed. He lives in Panama and his political asylum was recently renewed.
Born in Guayaquil, he was the son of Lebanese immigrants. He grew up playing football in the streets of Guayaquil and later went on to become a successful athlete and earn a degree in physical education. He was also a hurdler. He was the flag bearer for Ecuador at the 1972 Summer Olympics but did not compete in the Games due to injury. He was the police chief of Guayas and the president of Barcelona Sporting Club, a football team from his hometown. Besides being a gym teacher, he earned a degree in law and soon began his political career. He used to live in Kennedy Norte, a neighborhood next to the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport before he left to Panama after the deposition of his government. He was the nephew of the politician Assad Bucaram, who was mayor of Guayaquil. His sister, Martha Bucaram, was married to former President Jaime Roldós Aguilera, both of whom were killed in an aviation accident.
He was the Mayor of Guayaquil, and the founder and member of the Ecuadorian Roldosist Party (PRE). He then competed for the presidency of the Republic in 1988 and 1992 before succeeding in the 1996 run.
Bucaram defeated Social Christian Party (PSC) candidate Jaime Nebot by winning in all but one of the 21 provinces. He was the first elected president to do so.
Abdalá Bucaram was President from August 10, 1996 to February 6, 1997. His cabinet was put together by Vice President Rosalia Arteaga. Within months Bucaram was accused of embezzling millions of dollars of public funds.
After he took office, Bucaram tried to reorganize the state, which included trying to regularize the privatization process initiated by Osvaldo Hurtado (1980, Popular Democracy Party), and supported by the next three presidents: León Febres Cordero (1984, PSC), Rodrigo Borja Cevallos (1988, Democratic Left) and Sixto Durán Ballén (1992, ex-PSC). Political opponents took advantage of Bucaram's perceived trust and loyalty in the selection of his cabinet. Many of Bucaram's ministers and senior officials were influenced by the people who were in control of the state since 1980, and made terrible mistakes. On top of that, the congress was still controlled by the PSC and the Popular Democracy Party, who both pushed Bucaram for "allowances" to approve laws and to consider Bucaram's laws and decrees. In return Bucaram needed to push his cabinet for weekly "collections" to keep the congress "happy." The officers had to "squeeze" users to reach their "quota". Government opponents knew where the problems were, and scandal after scandal arose as a result.
By 1996 the state had already been dismantled by several years of privatizations; there was no way to control corruption, also, there was no desire of Bucaram's officers to help in this matter. "The Tequila effect" severely affected the Ecuadorean economy; however, no economic measures were taken due to the scandals in which the former President Duran-Ballen family (Flores y Miel) and his Vice-President Dahik (embezzlement of public funds) were involved. In addition, Duran-Ballén's Cenepa War against Peru exhausted the already dissembled state.
During the Latin American economic crisis, Ecuador was not the exception; the private banks and financial institutions took advantage of the false "bonanza," and the bankers ended up acquiring much state property. Bankers felt the shortage and started to loan money to themselves to maintain their recently acquired properties. The cash flow started to decrease abruptly. The superintendency of banking, controlled by bankers, authorized the issuance of currency without support; this fired up a rapid currency devaluation.
Bucaram had no alternative but to take strong anti-popular economic measures. Bucaram was a populist, so he had no defined political tendency. He decided his economic plan to be very neo-liberal; it was designed by Argentinian economist Domingo Cavallo, and included stop subsidies, regulate banks and financial institutions, and a strong currency devaluation ("Un sólo toque" would replace the sucre).
Massive protests against the proposed economic plan left Bucaram alone. The indigenous and social movements who helped him to raise to the power now were against him. The indigenous Pachakutik Movement, left-wing Democratic People's Movement (MPD), PSC and Popular Democracy were the main parties organizing the protests.
This protest led to his dismissal from the Ecuadorian presidency. He was dismissed by the congress on grounds of alleged mental incapacity. Bucaram's assumed insanity was never officially diagnosed; it was more a politic maneuver of the PSC and Popular Democracy who were in control of the legislative and judicial power, also, Pachakutik and MPD supported the decision in exchange of political representation. Congress passed the measure (44 votes in favor and 34 against) with a simple majority instead of the two thirds required by the Constitution, and appointed congressional leader Fabián Alarcón in his place, bypassing the sitting Vice President Rosalía Arteaga.
The constitutional court determined the congressional resolution to be anti-constitutional and rejected it. The congress ignored the constitutional court resolution and proceeded to confirm Fabian Alarcon as interim president. Finally, Congress, illegally, requested that the army assert Alarcón's power.
He received political asylum in Panama City after several corruption charges were laid against him. He returned Saturday, April 2, 2005, after the corruption charges were lifted the previous day. He stayed in Guayaquil for about two and a half weeks. The corruption charges against him were reinstated after Lucio Gutiérrez was forced to leave to avoid the charges.
Nevertheless, his son, Abdalá "Dalo" Bucarám Jr. is currently part of the Ecuadorian Congress, following his father's steps, representing the Ecuadorian Roldosist Party.