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  • Former president Abdala Bucaram greeted by his supporters in the coastal city of Guayaquil.

    Former president Abdala Bucaram greeted by his supporters in the coastal city of Guayaquil. | Photo: Telegrafo

Published 18 June 2017

The politician, who faced corruption charges and fled to Panama on several occasions, now wants to run for office once more.

Former Ecuadorean President Abdala Bucaram, who was ousted by Congress after just six months in power and accused of corruption and nepotism, has returned to the country after two decades with hopes of getting involved in politics once again.

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Bucaram, who appeared in a rally Saturday in Ecuador's largest city of Guayaquil, said he wanted to extend a hand to President Lenin Moreno of former President Rafael Correa's left-wing PAIS Alliance party. Analyst see the gesture as a political move, as Bucaram has routinely criticized Correa and his party with harsh words and vulgar terms in the past.

According to his son, former presidential candidate Abdala "Dalo" Bucaram, the former president is expected to run in the 2019 elections, either as a candidate for mayor or provincial government. The move would violate the condition on his political asylum granted in Panama of not meddling in internal political issues in Ecuador. 

"I come to play the second half of this game that's called the people against the oligarchy," Bucaram, known for his flamboyant political style and fiery and controversial comments, said to supporters. 

PAIS Alliance leaders have called on their supporters to redouble their work and to be vigilant for new battles, including Bucaram's bid to reinsert himself into the political arena of the country after 20 years of avoiding justice for corruption accusations.

Bucaram fled to Panama and acquired an asylum as he tried to evade several cases that came to light during his short term as mayor of Guayaquil and his half-year presidential administration, as he couldn't finish either due to scandals and corruption charges. During his speech on Saturday afternoon, he said he was the target of attacks by his political opponents that kept him away from his family.

The politician, who calls himself "El Loco," meaning "The Madman," was ousted after serving just six months as president when Congress ruled he was mentally incapable of being president.

In 1984 Bucaram was elected mayor of Guayaquil but left office after a year as the Armed Forces put him on trial in an alleged corruption case, prompting him to go into exile in Panama for the first time.

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He was arrested in Panama after officers found drugs in his car and was later released. He received amnesty and returned to the Ecuador in 1987 to run for president, a campaign he lost in the second round. After the loss, he left for Panama again as the corruption cases were reopened.

In 1992 he received another amnesty and returned to run once again for president, coming in their place in the polls. It wasn't until 1996 that Bucaram becaome president with his slogan "the strength of the poor."

Soon after his government began rolling out a neoliberal agenda, which included increases in the prices of basic services such as water, electricity and gas and privatization of state institutions. He also stacked his cabinet with wealthy businessmen and bankers.

In the middle of an economic and political crisis, on Feb. 5, 1997 — only six months after Bucaram was sworn in — Congress declared him "mentally incapable to govern" and he was ousted. He fled to Panama as two other cases of corruption and embezzlement began, one known as the "school bag" in which a program to deliver school supplies was never carried out, costing the country millions of dollars.

In April 2005, Bucaram made a brief return after former President Lucio Gutierrez appointed to the head of the Supreme Court a close friend of Bucaram's, allowing him to come back without facing his charges. After Gutierrez himself was ousted, Bucaram fled again to Panama.

The former Penal Code of Ecuador established that cases of embezzlement expire after 20 years, opening the door for Bucaram to return in 2017 without facing jutice for the corruption allegations.



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