Ecuador’s president dissolves Congress ahead of impeachment vote
Quito, May 17 (EFE).- Facing an impeachment vote, Ecuador’s president on Wednesday invoked a constitutional measure that dissolved the opposition-controlled National Assembly, brought the proceedings to a sudden halt and will allow him to rule by decree until early elections can be held.
In an address to the nation, conservative Guillermo Lasso announced his use of a legal mechanism known as “muerte cruzada” (mutual death), saying it was justified due to “grave internal and political commotion” in the Andean nation.
The move came a day after he testified before the unicameral legislature on the first day of his impeachment trial, in which he stood accused of embezzlement.
The invoking of that mechanism, which was included in Ecuador’s 2008 constitution to resolve impasses involving the executive and legislative branches but had never been used before, allowed Lasso to avoid an impeachment vote in which a two-thirds majority (92 of out of a total of 137 lawmakers) would have been sufficient to oust him from office.
“Ecuador needs a new political and social pact that allows it to exit the grave political crisis in which it finds itself and, regrettably, grows deeper every day,” Lasso said at the start of his address.
He added that the solution he has chosen should bring an end to “an irrational and useless confrontation,” saying it is not possible to move forward and confront the deep challenges posed by “crime and terrorism with an Assembly whose political mission is to destabilize the government, democracy and the state.”
The president said the opposition has stepped up those efforts by blocking all of his administration’s legislative initiatives and forging ahead with an “unfounded” impeachment drive.
“They’re pushing a alleged crime of passive embezzlement that doesn’t exist under our law,” Lasso said of the impeachment proceedings, adding that the opposition wants to hold him politically responsible for alleged corruption related to a contract involving a state-run shipping company and an oil tanker firm.
The process is “evidence-free, contradictory, vague, illegal and illegitimate,” the head of state said.
He added that he has striven to ensure “political dialogue is the tool to guarantee governability … but the attacks on this administration have no limits.”
Lasso said he has asked the National Electoral Council to schedule legislative and presidential elections. The newly elected head of state and lawmakers would then serve for two years, or until the end of the respective 2021 to 2025 presidential and legislative periods.
“This is a democratic decision, not only because it’s constitutional, but also because it once again gives the Ecuadorian people the power to decide their future in the next election,” said Lasso, who added that it will enable his government to focus all of its efforts on meeting the needs of Ecuadorian families.
“Starting today, without interference, the national government will issue a series of executive orders that conform to its sovereignly expressed mandate,” Lasso said, noting that he has already signed an initial decree aimed at bolstering the economy via tax cuts.
He added that public services will be provided as usual, the armed forces and National Police will continue to guarantee security and the private sector “has all the guarantees to carry out its activities and continue contributing to the country’s growth and development.”
Soldiers and police in anti-riot gear surrounded the National Assembly building after Lasso’s announcement, and access to several nearby blocks also was restricted.
Gen. Nelson Proaño, head of the Ecuadorian armed forces’ Joint Command, said there are legal grounds for Lasso’s action and that it must be respected by all citizens. EFE