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Ecuadorian showdown between president and lawmakers could see either ousted

QUITO, Ecuador — A showdown between Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso and the opposition-led National Assembly could see either side expelled this week as lawmakers seek to try him for embezzlement. funds and that he is considering exercising his constitutional power to dissolve the legislature.

Lawmakers will continue impeachment proceedings against the right-wing politician on Tuesday at a session of the unicameral assembly that Lasso is expected to attend.

Political tensions have risen in Ecuador since Lasso, a former banker, was elected in 2021 and faced strong opposition in the assembly from the start. At the same time, the South American country has seen an increase in drug-related violence, including several prison massacres in the past two years.

Whatever happens this week, the overall instability in the country is sure to get worse.

“The impeachment of the president, being an institutional earthquake in any democracy, will be an event that will shake the country’s political scene,” said Laura Lizarazo, senior analyst covering Ecuador and Colombia for global firm Control Risks.

This is the second time the opposition has tried to impeach Lasso, but last year it failed to win enough votes.

Lawmakers are reacting after the National Assembly voted to impeach President Guillermo Lasso on May 9. Dolores Ochoa / AP

Tuesday’s session could stretch into Wednesday as it will feature hours of arguments from Lasso’s accusers and defense and 10-minute remarks from one of 137 lawmakers who wish to speak on the case politically loaded.

The opposition is expected to reach the 92 votes needed to remove Lasso after the debate, but it is not clear when in the next five days the Assembly leadership will schedule the vote on the measure, although the lawmakers have signaled that it could happen on Saturday. It is also unclear whether Lasso will choose to dissolve the legislature to retain his post and rule by decree until presidential and legislative elections are scheduled.

Lawmakers accuse Lasso of failing to intervene to terminate a contract between the state-owned oil transport company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana and the private entity Amazonas Tankers. The accusers argue that Lasso knew the contract was full of irregularities and cost the state millions in losses.

But lawmakers have provided no evidence so far. Lasso, who has denied the allegations, told the foreign press in April that he would not hesitate to dissolve the Assembly if his removal was imminent.

“We anticipate that the gradual deterioration in terms of security that Ecuador has experienced over the past year will persist, as well as the high levels of dissatisfaction of the population who believe that the democratic institutions, both the Assembly and the executive, are totally disconnected from their most pressing needs, which have to do with unemployment, violence, totally unprecedented levels of extortion by organized crime and petty crime,” Lizarazo said.

The impeachment procedure is separate from the criminal investigation. Ecuador’s prosecutor’s office has opened a preliminary investigation, but Lasso has not been criminally charged.

Constitutional lawyer Andre Benavides said the charges against Lasso do not amount to an embezzlement case because neither the harm to the state nor the president’s alleged personal benefit have been established.

“In this case, there is no trace of money, it doesn’t exist,” Benavides said.

The Organization of American States on Monday urged lawmakers to “provide every guarantee of justice and abide by the rules of due process” during this week’s proceedings.


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