From hope to regret : the “Populist Imaginary” of Ecuador’s Lucio Gutiérrez
Veitch, Lindell Lorne
Framed within a discussion of populism, this thesis provides a critical analysis of the campaign and short tenure in office of Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutiérrez Borbúa. It outlines a multi-dimensional approach to populism that is characterized by five components: (1) personalistic leadership, (2) a heterogeneous coalition of support, (3) top-down political mobilization, (4) an ambiguous ideological discourse, and (5) a redistributive and clientelistic economic approach. Applied to the Gutiérrez case, the multi-dimensional approach highlights the viability and volatility of populism. This thesis argues that Gutiérrez ascended to the presidency through the successful application of a populist strategy, which generated significant expectations among the public and his political allies. Yet, once in office, Gutiérrez’ populist strategy was unable to sustain the support he enjoyed during the campaign. The expectations he generated went unmet as he engaged in clear reversals of the “populist imaginary” created by his candidacy. His twenty-eight months in office were characterized by neoliberalism, corruption, and status quo political machinations that had sunk his predecessors. Tracking Gutiérrez’ transition from populist champion to political pariah using the multi-dimensional approach indicates that although populism can be an effective electoral strategy, it can also impose significant limitations on a government. Ultimately, the Gutiérrez case reinforces the important role played by the “populist imaginary” in determining the success or failure of populist leaders.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeHandy, Jim; Poelzer, Greg; Steeves, Jeffery; Berdahl, Loleen
Copyright DateNovember 2009
Lucio Gutiérrez Borbúa