Jaime Roldós Aguilera

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Person.png Jaime Roldós Aguilera  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Roldos aguilera jaime.jpg
BornNovember 5, 1940
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Died1981-05-24 (Age 40)
Huairapungo Mountain, Celica Canton, Loja Province, Ecuador
Alma materUniversity of Guayaquil
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SpouseMartha Bucaram
Victim ofassassination
PartyConcentration of People's Forces
A leader of Ecuador determined to try to better the living conditions of the population. Assassinated by the CIA.

Employment.png President of Ecuador Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
August 10, 1979 - May 24, 1981

Jaime Roldós Aguilera (along with Omar Torrijos) is named by John Perkins as someone who resisted the threats and bribes of the IMF and the World Bank and insisted on doing what would benefit the citizens of Ecuador and who was assassinated by CIA 'jackals' as a result.[1] The US government has denied the allegation.

Presidency (1979–1981)

On October 10, 1979, Roldós signed a decree reducing the workweek to 42 hours. On November 2, 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 notables to search for a solution for the power struggle in 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 were border skirmishes with Peru, in the Cordillera del Cóndor. Clashes occurred in the regions of Paquisha, Mayaycu, and Machinatza. With great skill and diplomacy he left the territorial dispute to the arbitration by the Organization of American States.

Apart from this attempt at economic development, Roldós's other 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 of the Andean region (Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru), proposed the signing of a Charter of Conduct, in which the principles of universal justice and human rights were re-affirmed, signaling protection of human rights as a more important principle than non-intervention. His stance on human-rights led him to clash with fellow Latin American leaders: in one instance at a summit in Colombia, El Salvador’s José Napoleón Duarte (US-backed dictator who came to power with the coup that set off the Salvadoran Civil War) mocked Roldós of being young and inexperienced. Roldós answered: “I may be inexperienced, but my government perches on a mountain of popular votes, while yours is perched on a mountain of corpses.”[2]

This policy was questioned by the United States, who considered it a threat of possible independent development. The United States condemned the "Roldós doctrine", as they did that of Panamanian Omar Torrijos, who also died in a plane crash several months later. Following the 1980 U.S. presidential elections appointing Ronald Reagan, bilateral relations with the USA became strained; Roldós declined to attend Reagan's January 1981 inauguration on these grounds. His foreign policy initiatives also attracted the Sandinista government of Nicaragua and with the Frente Democrático in El Salvador, which opposed the military regime in that country.


On Sunday, May 24, 1981 a Beechcraft Super King Air, carrying the president and an entourage of his to a military ceremony in honor of the fallen in the short war with Peru, crashed into Huairapungo Hill, near the town of Guachanamá, in the Celica Canton of Loja Province. The crash, at 2360 meters over sea level (7800 ft.), left no survivors: killed along with the president were First Lady Martha Bucaram, the Minister of Defense Marco Subía Martinez and his wife, two aide-de-camps, a flight attendant and both pilots. The bodies were reportedly burned beyond recognition.[3]

Investigation and irregularities

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 navigational pilot error.

Arosemena inquiry (first investigation)

A parliamentary commission formed months later, led by then-MP and former President Otto Arosemena, following 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 especially since the aircraft that was purchased by the Air Force to operate as a VIP transport lacked black box equipment. A team of the Zurich Police also conducted an investigation, and concluded that the plane's motors were shut down when the plane crashed into the mountain. This opinion, which contradicted the Air Force Report, was not investigated further by the Ecuadorian government.

Granda inquiry (second investigation)

A second parliamentary inquiry, led by socialist MP Victor Granda, was formed in 1990 to review the findings of the Arosemena commission and the military investigations. The final 26-volume report, published in August 1992, found several inconsistencies and voids in the initial findings but didn’t establish a definitive conclusion. It criticized the Arosemena commission for its lack of further investigation into the Zurich police findings. Granda has also questioned former President Osvaldo Hurtado (who had succeeded Roldós) for its failure to question or expose the failures of the Ecuadorian Air Force flight security protocols that led to the crash.[4] Specifically, the Granda commission found that in the contracting process of the King Air bought by the Air Force, several high ranking Air Force officers stated that the black box equipment wasn’t acquired with the plane because it was considered “optional” among other spares and equipment (when it should have carried one as it was functioning as presidential transport). The investigation reportedly found that the two additional pages of the acquisition expedient, the ones with the optional equipment list, weren’t rubricated by any officer; so the commission asked the Air Force to demand a certification from Beechcraft to certify if the equipment had indeed been acquired. The Air Force relayed Beechcraft’s response: that they didn’t held any knowledge or registry of having sold or not the black box. According to Granda, this is an element of doubt, as a black box equipment “may have existed”.[5]

US involvement

The American author and activist John Perkins, in his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, asserts that Roldós was assassinated, because his plan to reorganize the hydrocarbon sector threatened U.S. interests. The economic relations were strained by Roldos' plan for a new hydrocarbon law not favored by US firms, which engaged in a lobbying and public relations campaign against Roldós' government amongst Ecuadorean and US politicians, as well as with the religious class; to the point that Roldós accused missionaries from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) of colluding with oil interests (and the CIA), before expelling them from the country. Shortly after sending his legislative package on the oil sector reform, in early 1981, Roldós warned foreign interests that if they wouldn’t contribute to the progress of the Ecuadorian people, they would have to leave the country.[6]

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, also a CIA-conducted assassination. It is worth noting that Roldós had applauded Jimmy Carter on his stance regarding the return of the Panama Canal after the Torrijos–Carter Treaties.

Bilderberger house historian Niall Ferguson has described Perkins's allegations as implausible. Ferguson notes that that US economic involvement in Ecuador was minimal (less than .5% of foreign aid went to Ecuador, and Ecuador purchased less than .5% of American exports) and inadequate to motivate such drastic action as assassinating a head of state.[7]

Operation Condor

The documentary The Death of Jaime Roldós, which premiered in 2013 explores Roldós' death using interviews, archives and documentary research.[8] It was directed by Manolo Sarmiento, who is close to the Roldós family. According to the film, the Ecuadorian military was heavily sympathetic, if not directly involved, with Operation Condor, the regional repressive apparatus set up by the military dictatorships of the Southern Cone countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay). Consequently, and according to Richelieu Levoyer; who happened to be Commander-in-Chief of the Ecuadorian Army at the time of the crash, Argentinians and Chileans involved themselves in the conspiracy to end Roldós’ regime, as they saw it sympathetic to left-wing causes and governments.

New inquiries, revelations and theories

Almost immediately after the screening, Attorney General Galo Chiriboga announced his decision to reopen the investigation. In April 2015, he announced to the National Assembly that, based on an alleged CIA document declassified in 2014, Ecuador had joined Operation Condor in mid-January 1978. According this document, participation occurred through the intelligence services of the Armed Forces; for this purpose, it is alleged (and also reported in the documentary) that “an Argentine general visited Quito and installed, in the Ministry of Defense, a telecommunications system (named “Condortel”). The Navy was in charge of telecommunications, while the Air Force was in charge of psychological warfare.” Additionally, an offer by Chile’s Augusto Pinochet to train Ecuadorian personnel at the Military Intelligence School in Santiago would have followed.[9]

In May 2016, on the 35th anniversary of the crash, Attorney General Chiriboga announced the discovery of several documents, audiovisual and material evidence that was used in the first official inquiry, in an Ecuadorian Air Force depot. Reportedly among the evidence were some small remains of the ill-fated Super King Air. Chiriboga announced that some of that evidence would be sent to Brazil for further analysis; and that he would embark on further investigation, among military installations, to look out for more remains from the aircraft. The Roldós family asked to be kept informed on the new investigation.[10] Chiriboga said that up this discovery collaboration from the Armed Forces had been “cold”, but that “better disposition” now existed. It is worth noting that former Defense Minister Fernando Cordero had declared in 2015 that despite documentation having been declassified in 2013, several files had been incinerated and other documents lost, a fact that his institution would investigate. Cordero added that previous information requests by the Attorney General had been obstructed by missing or disorganized investigation records.[11]

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