Ecuadorian Presidential Showdown, -News

QUITO, Ecuador — A showdown between Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso and the opposition-led National Assembly could lead to the removal of either party this week as lawmakers try to put him on trial for graft, Instead, he considered exercising his constitutional power to dissolve the legislature.

Lawmakers will continue impeachment proceedings against the right-leaning politician on Tuesday during a session of the unicameral parliament where Russo is expected to attend.

Political tensions have risen in Ecuador since former banker Lasso was elected in 2021 and have clashed with strong opposition in parliament from the start. Meanwhile, the South American country has experienced an increase in drug-related violence, including multiple massacres in prisons over the past two years.

No matter what happens this week, overall instability in the country is sure to deepen.

Laura Lizarazo, senior analyst covering Ecuador and Colombia at the global firm Control Risks, said: “The ouster of a president is a systemic earthquake for any democracy and will be the event that shakes the country’s political scene. event.”

This is the second time the opposition has tried to impeach Russo, but failed to get enough votes last year.

Lawmakers reacted after the National Assembly voted to impeach President Guillermo Lasso on May 9. Dolores Ochoa/AP

Tuesday’s session could be extended into Wednesday, as Lasso’s accusers and defenders will engage in hours of debate, as well as 10 minutes of comments from any of the 137 lawmakers who want to speak on the politically charged case.

The opposition is widely expected to secure the 92 votes needed to oust Lasso after the debate, but it is unclear exactly when parliamentary leadership will schedule a vote on the measure within the next five days, although lawmakers have indicated a possible vote on Saturday. held. Also unknown is whether Russo will choose to dissolve the legislature to keep his job and govern by decree until presidential and legislative elections are scheduled.

Lawmakers accused Lasso of failing to intervene to terminate a contract between state-owned oil shipping company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana and private entity Amazonas Tankers. Plaintiffs contend that Lasso knew the contract was riddled with irregularities and cost the state millions of dollars.

But so far, lawmakers have offered no evidence. Russo, who denies the allegations, told foreign media in April that he would not hesitate to dissolve parliament if he was imminently removed from office.

“We expect the gradual deterioration in security conditions that Ecuador has experienced in the last year to continue, and there is high discontent among the population that democratic institutions, including parliament and the executive branch, are completely out of touch with their most pressing needs, which relate to unemployment, violence, unprecedented levels of extortion by organized crime, and petty crime,” Lizarazo said.

The impeachment process is being conducted separately from the criminal investigation. The Ecuadorian prosecutor’s office has launched a preliminary investigation, but Russo has not been criminally charged.

Andre Benavides, a constitutional attorney, said the charges against Russo did not qualify as an embezzlement case because neither the damage to the state nor the president’s alleged personal interests were substantiated.

“In this case, there’s no trace of the money, it doesn’t exist,” Benavidez said.

The Organization of American States on Monday urged lawmakers to “provide all guarantees of justice and respect the rules of due process” during this week’s session.

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