The feud between President Guillermo Lasso and the National Assembly reached a fevered pitch Monday when the Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn Lasso’s management of the government. “The president has abandoned his responsibilities of governance and is doing nothing to carry out the national plan,” Assemblywoman Mireya Pazmiño claimed.
The vote against Lasso was followed by a call for his impeachment from Pachakutik member Pazmiño, who sponsored the condemnation vote which, in turn, drew a threat from the president’s office that he might dissolve the Assembly and call new elections.
Neither of the threats is likely to be carried out, according to constitutional experts, but they underscore a “crisis of leadership” in the country. “One must be honest that things are a mess with both the presidency and the Assembly,” says legal expert and law professor Freddy Campaña. “The charge of presidential mismanagement by the Assembly is not grounds for impeachment and dismissal from office, based on the constitution. And, it is hard to imagine Lasso invoking the death cross and calling new elections since he would likely be voted out of office along with many members of the Assembly.
Campaña adds, “So what we have is a stalemate in leadership where very little is being accomplished – and this at a time when the country faces multiple crises.”
Several Assembly members who voted against Lasso said they do not favor impeachment. “No, I am not thinking of a coup or a dismissal but, like others in this body, I want to send a strong message of dissatisfaction,” said Democratic Left Assemblyman Marlon Cadena. “The business of the country is not being attended to in a time when we are overwhelmed with serious issues.”
Cadena admitted he is unsure of the way forward. “There needs to be accommodation on both sides to work for the benefit of the country but it is the president who must take the lead in this effort.”
Assemblyman Darwin Pereira was more aggressive, challenging Lasso to call new elections. “For a year and a half, he has been threatening us with the death cross. Well, why doesn’t he put on his big boy pants and do it?”
Fabián Pozo, legal secretary for the president, defended Lasso’s record and blamed the Assembly for blocking the administration’s agenda. “We had a plan to increase employment and reduce poverty but the Assembly shot it down,” he said. “We proposed a plan to fight crime in the country by giving more authority to the police, and it was rejected. The president and his staff will work to resolve these conflicts and he will continue to lead the country.”
Pozo pointed to Lasso’s successes, which he says are mostly forgotten or ignored. “He successfully responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and his plans saved thousands of lives. And this week, we are seeing movement, based on rulings by the Constitutional Court, to provide the country with a new communication law.”
Campaña is pessimistic that the stalemate can be broken. “There are hardened political agendas on both sides, as well as efforts by some members of the Assembly to replace the government. I do not foresee a solution any time soon.”