Quito, Jun 24 (EFE).- Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said Friday that a coup plot is being orchestrated by the leaders of this month’s anti-government protests, who hours earlier said they would seek to oust him via a vote in the unicameral National Assembly.
In a nationwide television and social media address, the conservative head of state alerted the international community to an “attempt to destabilize democracy in Ecuador.”
He made those remarks after Leonidas Iza – chief promoter of the protests and president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), the Andean nation’s largest indigenous organization – said the left-wing, indigenist Pachakutik movement, Conaie’s political arm, may request a vote in parliament on ousting Lasso.
The president lamented that Iza made that announcement after his administration had accepted his request to allow the indigenous movement to enter and install a “popular assembly” in Quito’s House of Ecuadorian Culture, an indigenous cultural center.
That demand was one of several made by the Conaie chief as preconditions for talks with the government.
Lasso also said it was surprising that Conaie and Pachakutik are talking about seeking his removal from office when an agreement had been reached the day before between the government and representatives of the indigenous movement.
“This makes it clear that he (Iza) never wanted to (negotiate) benefits for the indigenous peoples and nationalities. All he was looking to do was deceive his supporters and usurp legally constituted government authority,” Lasso said.
The Ecuadorian constitution’s Article 130 contemplates the possibility of the president being removed by the National Assembly due to a “severe political crisis or internal unrest.”
It says that to “proceed with removal from office, the favorable vote of two-thirds of the National Assembly’s 137 members shall be required.” In such a scenario, the vice president would take over the presidential duties.
Within a maximum of seven days after the publication of the presidential removal resolution, the National Electoral Council is constitutionally required to schedule early legislative and presidential elections, which must be held on the same date.
In his address, the president said Iza is no longer able to control the situation and that “the violence perpetrated by criminals who have infiltrated (the protests) has gotten out of hand.”
The national government therefore “will use all resources provided by law to confront vandals and criminals” and “the National Police and the armed forces will act with the necessary means to legally defend public order and democracy through the progressive use of force,” Lasso said.
Minutes earlier, Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said the National Police was assessing whether to begin using lethal weaponry (pellet guns) against demonstrators, adding that some protesters already are using those weapons against the security forces.
That announcement was made on the 12th consecutive day of protests led by Conaie, which is demanding the government comply with a list of 10 demands, including reducing and freezing gas prices, adopting price controls for basic goods and agreeing not to privatize state-run companies or expand oil and mining activity in the Amazon.
The protests began on June 13 and thus far have left five dead and at least 200 injured, including both demonstrators and members of the security forces.
The violent incidents have included serious acts of repression as well as acts of violence and vandalism such as the torching and looting of a police station in the Amazon region and the ambushing of a military convoy. EFE