Before Donald J. Trump, Ecuador's Flirtation with a Clown President

Before there was America's clown president, Donald J. Trump, there was Ecuador's almost clown president, Abdala Bucaram Ortiz. Brothers from different mothers, these boys?

  • Both shamelessly aspired to fame via infamy, for bad press was far worse than no press;
  • Both admired, emulated and cozied up to authoritarians;
  • Both trawled the bottom of humanity for support;
  • Both made unusual hair choices;
  • Both spoke in the third-person;
  • Both called themselves populists.

In May of 1988, Abdala was a 30-something, slightly pudgy former mayor of Guayaquil who ran against for president of Ecuador against center-left candidate Rodrigo Borja Cevallo. Abdala's verbosity was what my Southern relatives termed, diarrhea of the mouth.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Abdala explained why he chose a Hitler-style moustache. "It's very sexy. My wife says she loves my's not because of Hitler. Well, I do admire Hitler a great deal on one side but I also condemn him on the other. I think that in the political organization area, Hitler is one of the greatest geniuses that humanity has had. But in the area of concepts and ideas, I think that he was bloodthirsty...that doesn't mean one shouldn't admire his intellectual conditions in the area of of organization...." (El Pais, February 8, 1988)

In comparing himself to the current Ecuadorian President, Leon Febres Cordero, Abdala said, "The morality of one man is different from the other one. I, of course, have thicker balls than Febres Cordero. Better said, I have balls and he doesn't have any." Of his rival Rodrigo Borja, Abdala added, "He's a lukewarm man. He has watered down sperm. He's a man who doesn't have any strength, feelings or spirit. Abdala is different." (El Pais, February 8, 1988)

In his hometown newspaper El Universo, Abdala said of his rival Rodrigo Borja, "He should become sufficiently virile and manly so that I can debate him in public. And taking the first step, I'm calling for an elevated political campaign and I promise to carry one out as long as they don't insult me." (El Universo, February 12, 1988)

For Abdala, it wasn't just a moustache as he reflected on why his uncle, Assad Bucaram (a.k.a. Don Buca) didn't win the presidency of Ecuador in 1972. "I believe it was the Jews who prevented Don Buca from becoming President of the Republic." (El Pais, February 8, 1988)

In a letter dated February 12, 1988 to the editor of El Universo, Abdala elaborated, " a conversation I had with Don Assad Bucaram, he told me that he was aware of a diplomat who was working in the Israeli Embassy in Quito who had contacted the military hierarchy to persuade them to not allow Don Buca to enter the elections that were coming up and thus prevent him from becoming President of the Republic."

"In no case should my words be confused with an anti-Semitic sentiment as I am a Christian man and a humanist and do not accept that type of feeling," (El Pais, February 13, 1988)

Due to the slim, but possible outcome of Abdala's winning, my husband ensured we had open airline tickets to leave the country should he win. He didn't, so we didn't have to. Though clown fish are lovely, clown presidents can be terrifying, often deadly narcissists.

Note: In the 1990s, still sporting the questionable facial hair, Abdala won the Presidency he'd coveted.

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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