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José María Velasco Ibarra
José María Velasco Ibarra.jpg
24th President of Ecuador
In office
1 September 1968 – 15 February 1972
Vice President Jorge Zavala Baquerizo
Preceded by Otto Arosemena Gómez
Succeeded by Guillermo Rodríguez Lara
In office
1 September 1960 – 7 November 1961
Vice President Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy
Preceded by Camilo Ponce Enríquez
Succeeded by Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy
In office
1 September 1952 – 31 August 1956
Vice President Alfredo Chiriboga
Preceded by Galo Plaza Lasso
Succeeded by Camilo Ponce Enríquez
In office
1 June 1944 – 23 August 1947
Vice President Mariano Suárez Veintimilla
Preceded by Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Río
Succeeded by Carlos Mancheno Cajas
In office
1 September 1934 – 21 August 1935
Preceded by Abelardo Montalvo
Succeeded by Antonio Pons
Personal details
José María Velasco Ibarra

(1893-03-19)March 19, 1893
Quito, Ecuador
Died March 30, 1979(1979-03-30) (aged 86)
Quito, Ecuador
Political party Conservative
Corina del Parral
(m. 1938; died 1979)
Alma mater Central University of Ecuador

José María Velasco Ibarra (19 March 1893 – 30 March 1979) was an Ecuadorian politician. He became president of Ecuador five times, in 1934–1935, 1944–1947, 1952–1956, 1960–1961, and 1968–1972, and only in 1952–1956 he completed a full term. In his four other terms, he was removed by military force, and several times he was installed as president through a military coup.

Early life and career

Velasco Ibarra was born on 19 March 1893 in Quito. His parents were Delia Ibarra and Alejandrino Velasco, a civil engineer. His father was a political activist in the conservative party during the dictatorship installed by the liberal revolution. He was home schooled by his mother. His father died when he was 16. He attended high school at Colegio San Gabriel and obtained a JD (Doctorate in Jurisprudence) from the Central University of Ecuador. As an author he published several books, including Conciencia y Barbarie, and was also a columnist for El Comercio.

His first public post was in Quito's Municipal Government, where he supervised works and visited communities. His political career began when he was named a Deputy of the Republic. In 1932, he was elected as Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies and several days later, Presidents of the Chamber of Deputies.


In 1933, he stood in the Ecuadorian presidential election and received 80% of the votes cast, the highest in Ecuadorian history. Velasco Ibarra traveled through several Latin American countries, including Peru, and restored Ecuador's global image. His first presidency began on 1 September 1934, but he was ousted in August 1935 by the military. He went into exile in Colombia, where he worked in the Santander School in Sevilla, which was named the best school in Colombia. Later, he traveled to Buenos Aires, where he worked as a university professor.

He stood again in the 1940 election and was defeated by the Radical Liberal Party candidate Carlos Arroyo del Río by a small margin. Arroyo del Río lacked Velasco Ibarra's popularity and public support, which indicated that there had been a fraud. Velasco Ibarra plotted a coup d'état with pilots from the Salinas Air Force base. Before executing his plan, he was detained and exiled again.

1944 was an especially acute crisis, following the defeat of Ecuador in a war with Peru. There was a bitter rivalry between the conservative regular army and the more radical national police (the 'carabineros'). High inflation had soured the people. Velasco Ibarra built his coalition using the rhetoric of moral reform, calling for the virtuous common people to rise against the corrupt and selfish oligarchy. Velasco presented himself as the embodiment of positive moral qualities, appealing to both Left and Right without presenting any precise political program. Thanks to the "Glorious Revolution" of May 28th, he was named Supreme Chief of the Republic and was later named Constitutional President by the Constituent Assembly. In August of 1947, he was again deposed by the military. Three defense ministers perpetrated the coup against Velasco Ibarra; among them was minister Mancheno, who later was his successor.

In 1952, he again won the presidential election, and began his third term as president on September 1, 1952. This time, he served his entire term, which ended on August 31, 1956. His third term was a time of progress for Ecuador: 311 schools were constructed, with another 104 in progress. More than 1359 km of roads were constructed, and 1057 km more were improved. Velasco Ibarra was a noted orator: in his political campaigns from town to town, he captivated people with eloquence, becoming a leader of the masses. Velasco Ibarra once said, "Give me a balcony and I will become president."

In 1960, he was elected president for the fourth time and was removed on November 7, 1961. In 1960, he nullified the Rio de Janeiro Protocol, which led to conflicts between Ecuador and Peru, including Paquisha in 1981 and the War of El Cenepa in 1995.

Finally, in 1968, Velasco Ibarra won the presidency for a fifth time. This government ended abruptly on February 15, 1972, when once more he was deposed in a bloodless coup, which brought General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara to power. In total, Velasco Ibarra governed nearly 13 years, making him the longest-serving president in Ecuadorian history (although Rafael Correa's decade-long presidency from 2007 until 2017 is the longest continuous presidency). The events surrounding the end of his fifth and last presidency are dealt with in Philip Agee's book Inside the Company: A CIA Diary.

Velasco was a fiery populist who did not have a formal party organization. Rather it was his populist rhetoric that attracted enthusiastic followers, as he presented himself as the advocate of the poor and downtrodden. In office he was not responsible for major reforms, but he used patronage effectively to maintain his largely inefficient and corrupt administrations.

There is debate about whether his rule can correctly be labelled as populist. Following Agustin Cueva, several authors have argued that in the midst of a hegemonic crisis Velasco rose to power on the votes of the coastal sub-proletariat, peasants who had migrated to urban centres as the cacao industry dwindled. The charismatic figure of Velasco, according to this view, emotionally captured the masses with promises of redemption. Others, among them Rafael Quintero, argue that the entrenched landowning elite was instrumental for Velasco's victory (at least in the 1930s), as the Coastal elite had been weakened by the end of the cacao boom.


Velasco Ibarra always had a special preoccupation with infrastructure. Many public works, including roads, hospitals, and bridges, were constructed during Velasco Ibarra's presidencies. He was the initiator of institutions such as the Supreme Electoral Tribunalián and Guamote. He decreed the law of weekly days off for workers, ordered the construction of irrigation canals, educational infrastructure, aircraft fields, and highways.


Velasco Ibarra's wife, Corina Parral de Velasco Ibarra died in Buenos Aires after falling from a bus. This precipitated the death of Velasco Ibarra, who said on his return to Ecuador, "I come to meditate and to die." He died in Quito, on 30 March 1979.

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