Plaza Gutiérrez, Leonidas (1865–1932)

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Plaza Gutiérrez, Leonidas (1865–1932)

Leonidas Plaza Gutiérrez (b. 18 April 1865; d. 18 September 1932), military figure and president of Ecuador (constitutional, 1901–1905 and 1912–1916). Born in Charapoto, Manabí Province, of Colombian parents, Plaza began a military career at age eighteen. After participating in the failed 1883–1884 liberal uprising in Manabí Province, Plaza escaped to Central America. During the next decade, he served in various administrative positions in El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, and earned an international reputation as a liberal revolutionary. He returned to Ecuador to participate in the liberal revolt that triumphed in August 1895. Plaza remained in Ecuador, and subsequently served as a member of the constituent assembly of 1896–1897, military commander of the coastal provinces, and deputy for Tungurahua Province at the 1900 and 1901 congresses, where he was president of the Chamber of Deputies.

At the end of his first presidential term, Eloy Alfaro selected Plaza as the candidate of the Liberal Party, but subsequently withdrew his support. Plaza, who retained substantial support within the military, won the presidency. The division between the two liberal leaders was one of the major causes of the turbulence of the ensuing decade. During his first administration, Plaza encouraged moderate conservatives to participate in his government, prompting his rivals to accuse the president of betraying liberalism. Plaza was a capable administrator who sought to build consensus, foster respect for civil liberties, including freedom of the press, and develop a secular, activist state. He supported Lizardo García for president in 1905.

Plaza was out of the country when Eloy Alfaro ousted García and convened a constituent assembly to ratify his usurpation of power in 1906. Plaza served as minister of finance in the short-lived government of Emilio Estrada. Estrada's death in December 1911 precipitated a struggle between the alfarista and plazista factions of the Liberal Party. The defeat of Alfaro, and his subsequent murder by a Quiteño mob, allowed the election of Plaza to a second presidential term in 1912. As arbiter of national politics between 1912 and 1925, Plaza used his influence to strengthen political institutions and the peaceful transfer of political power.

See alsoEcuador: Since 1830 .


Linda Alexander Rodríguez, The Search for Public Policy: Regional Politics and Government Finances in Ecuador, 1830–1940 (1985), esp. pp. 44-52, 123-125.

Frank Mac Donald Spindler, Nineteenth-Century Ecuador (1987), esp. pp. 184-192, 205-211.

Additional Bibliography

Cárdenas Reyes, María Cristina. José Peralta y la trayectoria del liberalismo ecuatoriano. Quito: Ediciones del Banco Central del Ecuador, 2002.

Díaz Cueva, Miguel, and Fernando Jurado Noboa. Alfaro y su tiempo. Quito: Fundación Cultural del Ecuador, 1999.

                            Linda Alexander RodrÍguez