Political trial of Ecuador’s president enters decisive phase

Quito, May 9 (EFE).- Ecuador’s parliament voted Tuesday to continue with the impeachment of the country’s president, who stands accused of ignoring a case of embezzlement in contracts signed by a state oil company and a private firm.

With 88 votes in favor, 23 against and five abstentions, parliament approved to continue the process against Guillermo Lasso, who will be questioned and asked to defend himself over the accusations which he denies, before the chamber decides whether to remove him from office.

Parliament will now convene a plenary session within five days to continue with the impeachment, which coincides with the election of the new board of directors, who will oversee the chamber for the next two years.

Although only 116 of the 137 assembly members were present Tuesday at the plenary session, the votes in favor of continuing with the process were only four fewer than the 92 the opposition needed to achieve its goal of removing the president, equivalent to two thirds of the assembly.

According to the opposition, Lasso ignored alleged irregularities in a contract signed by national oil company Flota Petrolera del Ecuador and private firm Amazonas Tanker and failed to act to prevent further damage to the state.

The president’s defense said the contracts were signed under the previous administration of former President Lenin Moreno and that under Lasso’s mandate a review was requested from the accounts court to renew them under conditions and observations it made.

Among those in favor of prosecuting Lasso are several parliamentary groups such as the Union for Hope (Unes), linked to former President Rafael Correa; the conservative Social Christian Party (PSC), Lasso’s former electoral partner; the Pachakutik indigenous movement and some independents.

The opposition spoke out against reports that recommended ending the process prepared by the Oversight Commission over lack of evidence. The commission failed to approve the document Saturday and this went to the parliamentary session.

“Lasso’s time and that of his acolytes will soon end,” predicted Unes assemblywoman Viviana Veloz, promoter of the impeachment trial against Lasso.

The only reaction from the government came from Interior Minister Henry Cucalon, who called the process “illegitimate.”

“The assembly has decided to continue with the political trial of (Lasso) in an illegitimate process that was born, developed and will end without evidence, without arguments and with serious legal flaws,” Cucalon wrote on social media.

“We remain firm in defending the right of Ecuadorians to live in a democracy,” he added.

The trial was promoted by the opposition after the defeat suffered by the ruling party in the electoral Feb. 5 appointment, when the government lost the referendum proposed to make reforms to the constitution. EFE


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