Despite the fact the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to begin an impeachment trial of President Guillermo Lasso, Lasso’s supporters expressed relief that there are not enough votes to dismiss him from office.
The vote for the trial was 88 in favor, 23 against and 5 abstentions. To censure and dismiss the president requires 92 votes.
“The vote today is welcome news since it tells us the number of votes against the president,” said CREO party Assemblyman Juan Fernando Flores. “This reflects the entirety of the opposition so we now feel confident that Guillermo Lasso will survive the second impeachment attempt against him in two years.”
Twenty of the Assembly’s 137 members did not attend the session, most claiming Assembly President Virgilio Saquicela violated legal and parliamentary rules by ignoring a report that recommended against impeachment. According to Flores, all of those who did not attend Tuesday’s session will vote no or abstain in a final impeachment vote.
Correista Assemblywoman Viviana Veloz (Unes) made the motion to begin the trial. “We must now begin to politically prosecute the President of the Republic, Guillermo Lasso, for the constitutional infraction of embezzlement,” she said. “The charge is for the diversion of the funds generated by the pools of companies with which Flopec EP had a contractual relationship for the transport of crude oil.”
Following Veloz’s comments, Lasso supporter Marco Troya called the impeachment trial a “joke and an insult to the Ecuadorian people.” Citing a recent poll, he said the Assembly has lost its credibility. “Did you see the latest numbers that show this body has the lowest respect of any government institution in history? Do you know that only 5% of the people say the Assembly has any legitimacy? Who the hell are we to judge the president?”
Fernando Villavicencio, author of the report claiming there were no grounds for a trial and one of the Assembly members not present for Tuesday’s vote, spoke briefly before leaving the Assembly building. “I have come here for the sole purpose of calling out the slander and lies of Viviana Veloz,” he said. He also blasted Saquicela for allowing the vote, claiming Assembly procedural rules were violated.
Following the vote, Lasso’s legal secretary Juan Pablo Ortiz, rejected the call to trial but said Lasso is eager to offer his version of events in the Flopec case. “Despite the illegality of today’s action, the president will appear before the full Assembly to tell the truth if he is called,” he said.
Ortiz expressed confidence that Lasso’s opponents will ultimately fail in their attempt to oust him from office. “They will not have the 92 votes necessary and I seriously doubt they will have the 88 they had today to continue the trial.”
Ortiz added that he expects the Constitutional Court to consider the legality of Tuesday Assembly session. “I believe it is very likely the judges will rule the Assembly’s action null and void on constitutional grounds.”