Plaza Lasso, Galo (1906–1987)

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Plaza Lasso, Galo (1906–1987)

Galo Plaza Lasso (b. 17 February 1906; d. 28 January 1987), president of Ecuador (1948–1952). The son of the former Liberal president Leónidas Plaza Gutiérrez, he received his university education in the United States and was named attaché at the Ecuadorian legation in Washington, D.C., in 1929. Upon later returning to Ecuador, he was active as gentleman farmer, diplomat, and politician. He served as minister of defense (1938–1940), ambassador to the United States (1944–1946), and senator from Pichincha (1946–1948). In 1948 he became the presidential candidate of the Movimiento Cívico Democrático Nacional (MCDN). Backed by the Liberal Party and by a group of independents and young professionals, he defeated the Conservative opposition.

Plaza sought a modernization of the economy and expanded the role of the state. His active promotion of the banana industry led to a boom that provided an important new economic resource. Plaza also devoted constant attention to the nurturing of his nation's fledgling democracy, insisting upon the basic importance of constitutional rule. Despite the unbridled partisanship of domestic opponents and the devastating impact of the worst earthquake in the nation's history, he served out his term—the first time in twenty-eight years any leader had served a full term.

Eight years later Plaza sought a second presidential term, once again putting together a coalition that included moderate reformers and progressives. However, he was soundly defeated in 1960 by José María Velasco Ibarra. Plaza, however, remained one of the nation's most respected figures and was called upon for advice in times of crisis, as when a provisional president had to be named in 1966 following the swift withdrawal of the military junta of the day.

Although his candidacy was marred by a long and cordial relationship with the United States, Plaza was nonetheless chosen as secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS); he served two terms before stepping down in 1975. In his later years he was active in such efforts as the Inter-American Dialogue. He continued to espouse the cause of democracy until his death at the age of eighty.

See alsoOrganization of American States (OAS) .


Galo Plaza, Problems of Democracy in Latin America (1955).

John D. Martz, Politics and Petroleum in Ecuador (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Coral Patiño, Héctor. Galo Plaza Lasso: El hombre de las Américas. Quito: Letramía, 2003.

Fundación Galo Plaza Lasso. Galo Plaza Lasso, 1906–2006. Quito: Fundación Galo Plaza Lasso, 2006.

                                         John D. Martz