Former President Leon Febres Cordero, 77, the colorful, right-wing leader who dominated Ecuadoran politics for almost two decades and was dubbed the "owner" of the nation by his opponents, died Monday in Quito of complications from pulmonary emphysema.

Sporting a mane of white hair and a cigarette hanging from his lip, the leader known simply as "Leon" or "Lion," was an old-fashioned, bare-knuckled Latin American strongman who towered over Ecuador's right for half a century.

"There won't be any more like him," his former vice president, Blasco Penaherrera, once told the Associated Press.

Mr. Febres Cordero, who was president of Ecuador from 1984 to 1988, was a bitter enemy of current leftist President Rafael Correa, whom he called a communist. Correa called Mr. Febres Cordero "a political dinosaur."

The first Latin American president to champion free-market economics in the 1980s, Mr. Febres Cordero won warm support from fellow conservative icon, Ronald Reagan. His opponents considered him autocratic and accused him of using his party's control over the judicial system to harass his enemies by having them arrested or driving them into exile. But he enjoyed unconditional support from Ecuador's right and a large part of population.

The U.S.-educated mechanical engineer was one of only three presidents in the last 27 years to finish their terms in this politically unstable Andean nation. After his term ended in 1988, he dominated Ecuador's Congress and courts as head of the conservative Social Christian party until his failing health forced him to leave politics in 2002. - AP