Saying that he is “still crazy — crazy with love for Ecuador,” former president Abdalá Bucaram took the stage Saturday night in front of thousands of supporters in Guayaquyil. Known as “El loco” by both opponents and supporters, Bucaram returned to Ecuador Thursday night after 20 years of exile in Panama.
True to form, the ex-president spent much his time of stage singing and dancing, joined by his son and former presidential candidate Dalo, and other family members and friends. At one point, a teenage girl climbed onto the stage and danced with Bucaram.
Although he offered words of conciliation and support for the government of Lenin Moreno, Bucaram said he has not forgiven those who betrayed him 20 years ago. “They removed me in a coup d’etat and treated me as they treat all people of this country, with hatred, with contempt and disdain. I intend to reveal the names of the traitors and they will be known to everyone,” he said.
Although he said he has not made a final decision, he does not rule out a return to politics. “I’m not done yet, friends. I am back for the second half.”
Bucaram and his supporters have long-claimed that charges that he was mentally unstable and corrupt were pretenses by opposition politicians for his 1997 impeachment and conviction.
Serving as president only from August 10, 1996 to February 6, 1997, Bucaram came into an office during a time of deep economic recession throughout Latin America. Elected as a populist, he promised to restore confidence in government, balance the national budget and to curb the power of private banks. Almost immediately, after proposing cuts to a broad range of government subsidies, new banking regulations and currency devaluation, he faced massive public protests and calls for his impeachment from both the political right and left.
With tears steaming down his face, Bucaram told his supporters, “I am a man who was separated from his family, his children and grandchildren for 20 years. I am a man who feels great pain. But tonight, I celebrate the joy of being home again and being with those I love.”