Ecuadorian parliament votes to continue with impeachment of Lasso

Quito, May 9 (EFE).- Ecuador’s National Assembly on Tuesday voted to continue with the impeachment process versus President Guillermo Lasso, who is accused by the opposition of turning a blind eye to embezzlement in the state-owned oil transport company.

Specifically, lawmakers voted to continue the ongoing impeachment process against Lasso over the accusations, thus moving the tortuous legal machinations further toward a final resolution, which will entail Lasso and opposition rivals to testify to the full congress, after which he will face an impeachment vote that may result in his removal from office.

Lasso has denied the accusations, arguing that his administration worked to make profitable changes to a contract at the state-owned petroleum transportation firm Flopec that had been signed years before he took office.

The motion to continue the impeachment process was approved by a vote of 88 to 23 with five abstentions. There are 137 seats in the Ecuadorian parliament.

Presenting the motion before the legislative body had been Viviana Veloz, with the Union for Hope (UNES) movement, which is headed by former progressive President Rafael Correa, who governed Ecuador from 2007-2017.

With the vote, the Assembly resolved “to politically impeach the president of the republic” for the “constitutional offense of embezzlement,” a charge that is being handled by the Constitutional Court.

The resolution was put forward and approved with the agreement of several political groups, in particular the opposition UNES, the Social Christian Party (PSC) and the indigenous Pachakutik movement, along with independent lawmakers.

According to the accusation in the legislative resolution, “it is evident that … diversion of funds” occurred, funds that were generated by state-run firm Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana (Flopec) with private companies, including Amazonas Tanker, with which Flopec had contracted to ship petroleum.

Veloz said that Lasso and one of his associates, Hernan Luque, currently a fugitive, worked to ensure “the continuation of oil transportation contracts in favor of third parties, conscious that they represented a loss for the state.”

“Consequently, the president of the republic knew of the structure of corruption at Flopec,” the resolution states, with Veloz adding that Lasso failed to do his constitutional duty to prevent such corruption from taking place.

Article 2 of the parliamentary resolution says that National Assembly president Virgilio Saquicela “will immediately continue with the process of impeachment” against Lasso, whereby he must, within five days, call a plenary legislative session to challenge the president on the matter.

The resolution was passed amid a controversial process of reviewing the proposal to impeach Lasso, a process that began with the Constitutional Court’s verification that embezzlement had occurred, although the court ruled out other potential crimes such as extortion, bribery and illicit enrichment.

To remove Lasso from office, 92 votes would be required, with Correa’s party already having pledged 47 votes to that end despite the fact that Correa himself was convicted of corruption.

To avoid a removal vote, Lasso could conceivably call early presidential and legislative elections, although the political opposition is not united in the desire to oust him.

EFE fa/bp

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