Durán-Ballén, Sixto (1921–)

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Durán-Ballén, Sixto (1921–)

As president of Ecuador from 1992 to 1996, Sixto Durán applied a technocratic, neoliberal approach to economic policy in his administration. Born in Boston on July 14, 1921, and trained as an architect in the United States, he worked in Washington, D.C., for the Inter-American Development Bank (1960–1968). He also served as Ecuador's minister of public works (1956–1960) and was mayor of Quito from 1970 to 1978. After two unsuccessful runs as the candidate of the conservative Partido Social Cristiano (PSC; Social Christian Party), Durán-Ballén was elected president in 1992 as the standard bearer of the Partido Unión Republicana (PUR; Party of Republican Unity).

Durán-Ballén's administration inherited a large budget deficit, heavy external debt obligations, and an annual inflation rate of nearly 60 percent. He and his economic czar, Vice President Alberto Dahik Garzoni, were committed to neoliberal, probusiness policies. These included devaluating the currency, freezing public sector wages, and privatizing state enterprises. Initial successes of these reforms included declining inflation, improved relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and a period of modest economic growth. At the same time, however, like many neoliberal reforms elsewhere, these policies contributed to increased unemployment and growing labor unrest. The administration's Agrarian Development Law of 1994, designed to convert peasant communal lands to commercial enterprises, provoked intense protests led by the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de Ecuador (CONAIE; Ecuadorian Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities).

A short border war with Peru in 1995 briefly raised Durán's record low approval ratings, but the president's acrimonious relationship with Congress and a series of administration corruption scandals quickly undermined his public support. Most damaging, in 1995 Vice President Dahik, the architect of Durán's economic policies, fled the country to avoid charges of corruption. Later that year, unable to get his key legislative proposals through Congress, Durán submitted a series of constitutional amendments—some designed to strengthen presidential powers—to a national plebiscite. Voters rejected all eleven proposed amendments, effectively crippling the president for the rest of his term.

Sixto Durán was the last of four elected Ecuadorian presidents to complete his full term. In the decade after he stepped down, none of Ecuador's elected presidents served a full term. Durán later served as a congressional deputy.

See alsoEcuador, Political Parties: Overview; Neoliberalism.


Work by Durán-Ballén

Durán-Ballén, Sixto. A mi manera-: Los años de Carondelet. Quito: Universidad Andína Simón Bolívar, 2005; Guayaquil, Ecuador: Abya Yala, 2005.

Other Works

Conaghan, Catherine M. "Políticos versus partidos: Discordía y desunión en el sistema de partidos ecuatoriano." In La construcción de instituciones democráticas: Sistemas de partidos en América Latina, edited by Scott Mainwaring and Thomas Scully. Santiago, Chile: Cieplan, 1996.

Lucio-Paredes, Pablo, et al., eds. Paquetazo: Las medidas de Sixto y Dahik. Quito: Editorial El Conejo, 1992.

                                      Howard Handelman