Ecuador’s president defends himself at start of impeachment trial

Quito, May 16 (EFE).- Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso defended himself on Tuesday at the start of his impeachment trial, sparking a heated debate in the National Assembly and also on social media networks between supporters and critics.

The National Assembly (parliament), controlled by the opposition and located in a central area of Quito, was guarded by police to receive the president, as well as groups of supporters, although some slogans were shouted against him.

The debate also spread to social media, which was lit up with the possibility that the president will be the first to be impeached since the country returned to democracy.

Lasso arrived at parliament around midday and addressed the legislative plenary session with a speech in which he defended his innocence, listed various achievements of his government, and reproached his opponents for organizing what he claimed was a political trial without the evidence or witnesses to support the crime of embezzlement, of which he is accused.

Although he was allocated three hours, Lasso took less than 50 minutes to present his defense, in which he repeated that the trial was “unfounded” and that his opponents have shown of “unparalleled inventiveness” sustained in a “fictitious situation that does not solve the problems of the people or anyone else.”

The opposition has accused Lasso of knowing about and allowing embezzlement through a contract between the state-owned energy firm Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana (Flopec) and the private Amazonas Tanker, although the process has also highlighted a series of problems that affect the country such as insecurity, unemployment, the cost of living and the increase in illegal migration.

After his speech, Lasso left the main hall, although before leaving the chamber he was approached by several legislators from the official Creating Opportunities (CREO) party and also from the Pachakutik indigenous party, who expressed their support for him.

The attitude of certain Pachakutik assembly members revealed the division within the parliamentary group and that could play an important role in the final vote.

That division also played out in a debate among lawmakers that began shortly after Lasso left.

Esteban Torres, from the right-wing Social Christian Party, and Viviana Veloz from the Union for Hope, both opponents and questioners, began the response.

Veloz accused Lasso of being a “liar” and of having hidden his defense of the crime that he is accused of with a management report that included various actions of the government.

The legislator insisted that with Lasso’s knowledge, there was a loss to the State of about $6 million.

Torres agreed that the evidence points to Lasso and said that if the president is removed, he will be succeeded by the country’s vice president Alfredo Borrero, according to constitutional norms.

The current one is an “inefficient and slow government that has abandoned the country’s fate” and people, Torres added.

Assembly president Virgilio Saquicela suspended the session late on Tuesday night after almost 11 hours in which 38 legislators spoke. It will be resumed Wednesday morning.

The trial, which began with some 70 legislators registered to participate in the debate, each given 10 minutes, will take a few days.

The National Assembly is made up of 137 parliamentarians, and 92 votes are required for the censure and dismissal of the president.

It is expected that the final vote will take place on Saturday. EFE


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