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Velasco Ibarra, José María (1893–1979)

Velasco Ibarra, José María (1893–1979)

José María Velasco Ibarra (b. 19 March 1893; d. 30 March 1979), president of Ecuador (1934–1935, 1944–1947, 1952–1956, 1960–1961, 1968–1972). Trained in law at the Central University in Quito, Velasco began his long and remarkable political career at an early age. He was elected to Congress in 1932, became president of the Chamber of Deputies in 1933, and replaced the president of the republic a year later. He attained the presidency five times but was forcibly removed on four occasions. Only his third presidency (1952–1956) was completed in accordance with constitutional provisions.

A spellbinding orator and charismatic figure of the first order, Velasco dominated national politics for nearly five decades. When out of office he was busily planning a return to power, and few prominent public figures were not associated with him at one time or another. A lifelong critic of political parties, Velasco won power through a personal electoral machine, which was dismantled once he left office. Unable to delegate authority, Velasco was a disastrous administrator whose authoritarian proclivities encouraged political unrest.

A widely read intellectual, Velasco had minimal comprehension of economic issues and was inclined toward short-term opportunistic policies. By nature a conservative, Velasco nonetheless put forward a populist image throughout his career. During his 1960 presidential campaign his views were avowedly leftist in character, reflecting the impact of the Cuban Revolution.

Velasco's fifth and final term, after a narrow victory in 1968, was characteristic of his earlier terms in office. The constitution was eventually suspended, and ultimately the military intervened. Velasco went into exile, returning in 1979 to bury his wife; he died a month later. With his demise, the remaining Velasquista forces disintegrated.

See alsoArosemena Monroy, Carlos Julio .


George I. Blanksten, Ecuador: Constitutions and Caudillos (1951).

Agustín Cueva, The Process of Political Domination in Ecuador, translated by Danielle Salti (1982).

Osvaldo Hurtado, Political Power in Ecuador, translated by Nick D. Mills, Jr. (1980).

John D. Martz, Ecuador: Conflicting Political Culture and the Quest for Progress (1972).

Additional Bibliography

Jaramillo Palacio, José María. Velasco Ibarra: Presidente idealista: medio siglo de historia en el Ecuador, 1930–1980. Quito, Ecuador: Delta, 1995.

Norris, Robert E., and Carlos de la Torre. El gran ausente: Biografía de Velasco Ibarra. Quito, Ecuador: Ediciones Libri Mundi/Enrique Grosse-Luemern, 2004.

Torre, Carlos de la. Populist Seduction in Latin America: The Ecuadorian Experience. Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 2000.

                                          John D. Martz

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