The resignation of Defense Minister Gen. Victor Bayas earlier S
Feb. 09, 1997
The resignation of Defense Minister Gen. Victor Bayas earlier Saturday and his temporary replacement by armed forces chief Gen. Paco Moncayo was a result of Bayas' decision to accept the state of emergency requested by Bucaram, Grijalva said.
Bayas said Friday that Bucaram had requested the state of emergency to respond to the violent street protests that have swept the country since Wednesday.
Moncayo is immensely popular because his troops successfully resisted Peru's much larger army during a brief conflict two years ago.
Moncayo had said Friday that Ecuador's military would remain neutral in the conflict, but stressed that ``the country cannot have a power vacuum.''
Congress voted 44-34 Thursday to remove Bucaram for ``mental incapacity.''
His foes in Congress accused Bucaram, who calls himself ``El Loco'' of worsening the country's economic ills with his erratic behavior and political showboating.
Bucaram refused to step down, vowing to remain in office until his term officially ends in 2000. He took office only six months ago.
On Friday night, Bucaram left Quito, where he had barricaded himself in the national palace for three days, and flew to Guayaquil, his political stronghold.
He pledged to increase workers' wages and also planned a ``very important increase in the salaries of the glorious armed forces.''
``Everything the Congress has done is unconstitutional,'' he said Saturday night at his residence in Guayaquil. ``I continue to be the constitutional president of the republic.''
On Saturday, he challenged Alarcon to meet him for talks, accusing the congressional leader of usurping his authority, declaring: ``Only I am the president of this republic.''
Showing the abrasive style that has marked his political career, Bucaram said that if Alarcon was a man, he would not be afraid to meet him face-to-face. Otherwise, he said, Alarcon should give up his aspirations for political leadership.
Alarcon rejected the challenge.
``The people don't want to see two bad boxers in a street fight, but statesmen who know how to resolve the country's problems,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Vice President Rosalia Arteaga, who proclaimed herself president after Bucaram's dismissal, remained in her office next to the national palace.
She was the only one of the three contenders to meet with the joint military command, setting off strong rumors that she may be favored by the military as a compromise candidate to assume the presidency.
Bucaram's dismissal followed a nationwide 48-hour strike that began Wednesday to protest recent austerity measures that have sent electricity, fuel and telephone rates soaring.
Hundreds of soldiers maintained security around the national palace, which was protected by rolls of barbed wire.
Alarcon tried to lead a march on the palace Friday, but police used tear gas to drive the marchers back to a plaza three blocks away.
Police armored vehicles equipped with water cannons drenched the protesters, trying to force them from the plaza. Demonstrators chanted, ``Bucaram, get out!'' and fought back with gasoline bombs.
An 18-year-old died after being struck on the head by a police tear-gas canister. Five other demonstrators and a police officer were injured.
In Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, a young woman was shot and slightly wounded when Bucaram's supporters clashed with anti-government demonstrators.