Alfaro Delgado, José Eloy (1842–1912)

views updated

Alfaro Delgado, José Eloy (1842–1912)

José Eloy Alfaro Delgado (b. 25 June 1842; d. 28 January 1912), president of Ecuador (interim 1896–1897, constitutional 1897–1901, interim 1906–1907, constitutional 1907–1911). Born in Montecristi, Manabí, Alfaro began his political career as a partisan of General José María Urvina, leading revolts in 1865 and 1871 against the conservative regime of Gabriel García Moreno (1869–1875). When the movements failed, he fled to Panama, where he developed a successful business and married. He subsequently used his wealth to finance liberal publications and insurrections against conservative governments in Ecuador and to support liberal causes throughout Latin America. By 1895, when he returned to Ecuador to lead the liberal forces, Alfaro had an international reputation as a revolutionary. With the support of wealthy coastal exporting interests, Alfaro's forces defeated the government troops. Alfaro convened a constituent assembly that wrote a new liberal constitution and elected him president. The liberals would retain power for the next three decades.

Despite a commitment to liberal principles, including the creation of a secular, activist state, Alfaro's political style was authoritarian and personalist. Until his death in 1912, he sought to maintain power by any means and was a principal cause of the political turmoil that characterized Ecuador in this period. He failed in his effort to prevent the inauguration of his successor Leonidas Plaza in 1901, but managed to oust Lizardo García, who took office in 1905. As in 1896, Alfaro convened the 1906 constituent assembly to legitimize his usurpation of power.

During Alfaro's second constitutional term, the Quito and Guayaquil Railroad was inaugurated, and real property held in mort-main by religious orders was nationalized. These accomplishments were partly eclipsed by Alfaro's harsh repression of political opponents and lack of respect for civil liberties.

Failing to prevent the inauguration of Emilio Estrada as his successor on 31 August 1911, Alfaro once again fled to Panama. However, when Estrada's untimely death in December 1911 unleashed a civil war, he returned from Panama to participate in the unsuccessful insurrection against the government. The public damned Alfaro and his supporters as unprincipled opportunists willing to destroy the nation to gain their ends and demanded that the rebels be punished. Alfaro was taken to Quito for trial. A mob burst into the prison and murdered the prisoners, including Eloy Alfaro.

See alsoEcuador, Constitutions; Ecuador, Revolutions: Revolution of 1895.


Luis Robalino Dávila, Orígines de Ecuador de hoy, vol. 7, pts. 1-2 (1969).

Linda Alexander Rodríguez, The Search for Public Policy: Regional Politics and Government Finances in Ecuador, 1830–1940 (1985), esp. pp. 46-49.

Frank Macdonald Spindler, Nineteenth Century Ecuador (1987), esp. pp. 147-210.

Additional Bibliography

Espinales Tejena, Vicente. Eloy Alfaro y la cultura. Quito: Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana "Benjamín Carrión," 1995.

Santos Rodríguez, José. Eloy Alfaro: Su personalidad multifacética y la revolución liberal. Guayaquil: Universidad de Guayaquil, 1995.

                          Linda Alexander RodrÍguez