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Cablegate: Ex-President Bucarams Homecoming Celebration

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 GUAYAQUIL 000424

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ASEC PREL EC
SUBJECT: EX-PRESIDENT BUCARAMS HOMECOMING CELEBRATION

REF: A. QUITO 729; B. GUAYAQUIL 132

1. (U) Summary: Former president Abdala Bucaram, of the
Ecuadorian Roldosista Party (PRE), made a flamboyant,
celebratory return to Guayaquil on April 2. After eight
years of self-imposed exile in Panama, he arrived in the
city center by helicopter, accompanied by men on
horseback, and with fireworks exploding in the air.
Joined on stage with his family, fellow PRE party
leaders including president of congress Omar Quintana
- Bucaram celebrated his homecoming with an impassioned
speech to thousands of supporters. Though short on
content and substance, his populist ranting was notable
e
for his professed admiration for Hugo Chavez'
"Bolivarian revolution," and opposition to the
imposition of foreign military bases and free trade
agreements. End summary.

----------------
A HEROS WELCOME
----------------

2. (U) Less than 48 hours after he was cleared of all
pending corruption charges (Ref A) by the Supreme Court
president, Guillermo Castro, Bucarams cohorts
orchestrated an emotional arrival in Guayaquil. A
visible lack of security forces, street closures,
intermittent rain, and a delayed start of almost two
hours did not prevent approximately 20,000 Bucaram
admirers from thronging a nine-block area of downtown
Guayaquil. Newspaper reports quoted PRE party leaders
as having chartered buses to bring in followers from as
far away as Esmeraldas and Cuenca. Guayaquil PolOff
observed thousands of young men pouring out of all modes
of transportation and making their way towards the stage
erected on the edge of a city park, waving flags
s
displaying the PRE colors red and yellow. Many were
drinking alcohol from bottles passed among them, and
even more appeared to be barely old enough to remember
Bucarams departure. Adding to the festive atmosphere
were four musical groups positioned along the eventual
parade route. The banner providing the stages backdrop
had a large photo of Bucaram in his presidential sash
and read "Only God knows how we have suffered in your
absence."

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3. (U) Bucaram arrived in Ecuador in the early hours of
April 2. However, he avoided all press and made no
public appearances, retreating to an undisclosed
location to prepare for his grand public entrance. The
PRE widely announced the location and timing of the
homecoming commemoration, and their announcement that
Bucaram would arrive by helicopter heightened the
theatrical quality. By the time he began to transverse
the nine blocks from his rooftop landing to the stage,
the frenzied crowd impeded his progress as they
y
attempted to get as close as possible to their hero.
Many tried to rush the stage once he finally got there,
and the lack of security meant that more than one
succeeded.

----------------------------------
POPULIST RHETORIC PERVADES ADDRESS
----------------------------------

4. (U) Bucaram began by thanking his family and PRE
party members for working so hard for his return. He
singled out congressional president Omar Quintana, who
stood next to him, though Quintana appeared visibly
uncomfortable and left the stage before the speech
concluded. Bucaram also expressed his appreciation for
Supreme Court president Guillermo Castro and President
Gutierrez, praising their courage in dropping the
charges against him. Finally, he expressed his most
heartfelt thanks to "the beautiful poor of Ecuador,"
gesturing to the crowd in front of him and declaring his
commitment to fight on their behalf. The multitudes
responded enthusiastically.

5. (U) At times using vulgar language, Bucaram
lambasted Leon Febres-Corderos Social Christian Party
(PSC) in particular, and all groups that opposed him in
general. He emphasized that he had returned to Ecuador
wiser, more mature, and more patient, but "crazier than
ever to rid the country of the political oligarchy" that
was responsible for the poors continued suffering.
Lamenting the setbacks the country endured during his
absence, including the loss of the sucre (Ecuadors
currency before dollarization in 2000), he ridiculed
Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebots (PSC) 'Marcha Blanca' (Ref
B) as nothing more than a parade of the elites. Bucaram
also had harsh words for PRIAN (Partido Renovador
Institucional Accion Nacional) founder and leader Alvaro
Noboa, whom he claimed "must be crying" now that Bucaram
is back in Ecuador.

6. (U) Populist rhetoric infused Bucarams address.
Most prominent were his references to embarking on a
Chavez-modeled Bolivarian revolution to wrest power from
the privileged and embolden the poor. In a an oblique
ique
reference to US interests, Bucaram said he would now
spend time analyzing the current state of affairs in
Ecuador before putting forth a plan to rid the country
of the "impositions of foreign military bases, and trade
agreements," among other issues.
----------------------
NOT QUITE CENTER STAGE
----------------------

7. (U) Reports of the death of Pope John Paul II
somewhat eclipsed Bucarams return. National media
focused on events at the Vatican until right up to the
moment of Bucarams rally. Similarly, the next days
front-page news featured full spreads of the pope, with
Bucaram stories buried in the middle of all major
papers. For his part, Bucaram expressed his personal
sadness over the Pope's passing, and claimed that the
pope waited to die until he (Bucaram) had been able to
come home. Bucaram also had to share media attention
with returned leaders Gustavo Noboa and Alberto Dahik
(Ref A), who returned from exile to Ecuador this
weekend.

.

8. (U) Apparently anticipating Bucarams criticism,
PRIAN leader and 2006 presidential candidate Alvaro
Noboa began his counterattack on the PRE with a paid
political announcement that aired immediately following
coverage of Bucarams rally. Noboa used the five-minute
spot to expand on his efforts to help the poor in
Ecuador and his plans to bring the country out of
poverty once elected president.

-------
COMMENT
-------

9. (U) Abdala Bucarams theatrical return to Ecuador
offered a glimpse of what we can expect from this
populist rabble-rouser should he choose to stay in
Ecuador. It is not clear if his image among the mostly-
poor coastal Ecuadorians, who comprise his political
base, has been tarnished by his years in exile. Despite
his professed solidarity with the poor, he spent eight
years not working while living in a luxurious apartment
in Panama, chartered a private plane for his return,
and maintains a lavish house in a wealthy Guayaquil
il
neighborhood. His welcome in Guayaquil was not
impressively large despite party efforts to bus in
supporters.

10. (SBU) To what extent Bucaram can promote Chavez-
style Bolivarian populism here remains to be seen.
Even his most ardent foes acknowledge his political
skills and ability to motivate the disaffected masses
with his populist message. However, Bucaram's political
base has been weakened by his long absence and his
presence back on the political scene here will energize
both his own Ecuadorian Roldosista Party (PRE) and its
rivals (especially Noboa's PRIAN, which has absorbed
much of the PRE's base during Bucaram's absence).
Bucaram has professed appreciation to Gutierrez and
willingness to defend Gutierrez' tenure should it be
threatened. Unfortunately for Gutierrez, Bucaram's
return makes that threat all the more real.

11. This cable was cleared by Embassy Quito.

HERBERT

UNCLASSIFIED2

SIPDIS
UNCLASSIFIED
UNCLASSIFIED
ED

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