Jaime Roldós Aguilera (1940–1981) was President of Ecuador from 10 August 1979 to 24 May 1981. In his short presidency, he became known for his insistence on human rights. His death in a plane crash has given rise to accusations he was surreptitiously assassinated by the United States government. The Ecuadorian Roldosist Party is named after him.
Early life and career
Roldós was born in Guayaquil on November 5, 1940. He attended high school at the Vicente Rocafuerte National School. He studied jurisprudence and social science at the University of Guayaquil. He excelled in school and won many awards.
At the age of 37, he ran for president on a populist platform. In the first round, he received the greatest number of votes, but not the 50% plus one needed to avoid a runoff. He won the second round of elections against Sixto Durán Ballén, and became president on August 10, 1979.
On October 11, 1979, Roldós signed a decree reducing the workweek to 40 hours. On November 1, 1979, he issued another decree doubling the minimum wage, to 4,000 sucres per month. ($160 in 1979 US dollars). On March 8, 1980, he established the National Development Plan. On April 15, 1980 he established a committee of leaders to find a solution for the battle for power with the National Congress, presided over by his former mentor Assad Bucaram.
He named 1981 the "year of advances". In late January and early February 1981, there was a military confrontation with Peru, in the Cordillera del Cóndor. Clashes occurred in the regions of Paquisha, Mayaycu, and Machinaza. With skill and diplomacy in the midst of this crisis, he left the territorial dispute to the Organization of American States. (Later, in 1988, a definitive peace agreement was established with Peru.)
Roldós's most important accomplishment was his policy in support of human rights, in an era in which most Latin American countries were military dictatorships. In September 1980, Roldós met with the democratically elected presidents in the Andean region (Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru), and proposed the signing of a Charter of Conduct, in which the principles of universal justice and human rights were established, signaling the protection of human rights was more important than the principle of non-intervention.
This policy was questioned by American conservatives, who considered it an excuse to justify Soviet meddling in the region, especially in Central America. They condemned the "Roldós doctrine", as they did that of Panamanian Omar Torrijos, who also died in a plane crash several months later. As a result of the election of Ronald Reagan as president of the United States on November 4, 1980, these conservatives had the opportunity to make this opposition clear, leading to international tensions. In January 1981, Roldós declined an invitation to Reagan's inauguration because of their differences on the subject of human rights. He also tightened links with the Sandinista government of Nicaragua and the Frente Democrático in El Salvador, which opposed the military regime in that country.(reason for killing him)
Roldós governed Ecuador for less than two years before being killed in an unexplained plane crash. On May 24, 1981, a plane carrying Roldós crashed into Huairapungo Mountain, in Celica Canton of Loja Province. All the other passengers in the plane died as well: Roldós's wife Martha Bucaram, Minister of Defense Marco Subía Martínez and his wife, as well as two military officers and three other passengers.
The controversy about the cause of the crash began immediately, when the Accident Investigation Committee (Junta Investigadora de Accidentes, JIA) of the Ecuadorian Air Force attributed the crash to pilot error, supposedly caused by an overloading with cargo. The parliamentary commission formed months after, after pressure from the families of the victims and political groups allied with the president, found contradictions and inconsistencies in the JIA report, but could not reach definitive conclusions. The Zurich Police, who also conducted an investigation, concluded that the plane's motors were shut down when the plane crashed into the mountain. This expert opinion, which contradicted the Air Force Report, was not investigated further by the Ecuadorian government.
The American author and activist John Perkins, in his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, concludes that Roldós was assassinated, allegedly by a bomb located in a tape recorder, because his plan to reorganize the hydrocarbon sector would have threatened U.S. interests. Roldós had entered into a pact with neighboring Colombia and Peru, a pact which US President Reagan saw as a tilt toward the Soviet Union. Just months after Roldós died, another Latin American leader who had been at odds with U.S. interests in the control of the Panama Canal, Panama's Omar Torrijos, died in what was allegedly just a plane crash, which also is widely perceived to have been a CIA-conducted assassination, again according to John Perkins.
After Roldós's death, the National Congress named Roldós's brother, León Roldós, as Vice President of Ecuador for the remainder of what would have been Jaime Roldós's term. León Roldós was later a candidate for president en 1992, 2002, and 2006. Jaime Roldós's daughter, Martha Roldós Bucaram, was a presidential candidate in the 2009 elections. Jaime Roldós's son, Santiago Roldós Bucaram, is a journalist and playwright. Jaime Roldós's brother-in-law, Abdalá Bucaram, founded the populist Ecuadorian Roldosist Party and was elected president of Ecuador. He governed from August 1996 to February 1997, when he was removed by the National Congress on the grounds of "mental incapacity". Martha Roldós has said that the Ecuadorian Roldosist Party has corrupted her father's ideals.
Jaime Roldós's most important legacy was his support for human rights. The Roldós Doctrine holds that the international community's concern for a country's internal human rights situation is not a violation of the country's sovereignty.