As expected, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court approved the National Assembly’s petition to begin impeachment proceedings against President Guillermo Lasso. In a six to three vote Wednesday night, the judges agreed that allegations of embezzlement involving public companies justify a trial.
In its decision, however, the Court rejected the Assembly’s charge of extortion against the president, saying the evidence was “unsubstantial,” and noted that the impeachment petition contained a number of procedural errors.
The Court’s ruling begins a multi-step impeachment process that could require six to eight weeks for a final vote to exonerate or dismiss the president.
Assemblywoman Viviana Veloz of the Correista UNES party celebrated the decision and said the embezzlement charge involving corruption in the public oil transportation company was sufficient grounds for impeachment. “The president will be impeached and will have to answer for his horrors and incompetence before the Assembly,” she said in a Tweet. “We cannot turn our backs on the Ecuadorian people. This trial is for you!”
Lasso’s supporters said they respect the decision and are ready to present a defense. They also claim the Court’s rejection of the extortion charge weakens the impeachment case. “We welcome the opportunity to defend the president and believe he will prevail in the end. Without support of the extortion allegation we feel confidant of a positive outcome.”
According to both his supporters and opponents, Lasso has three options following Wednesday’s decision. First, he can allow the impeachment trial to continue to conclusion, in which case he could be dismissed from office and Vice President Alfredo Borrero would fill out the remainder of his term. Second, he could resign before an impeachment vote, allowing Borrero to take over. And third, he can invoke the muerte cruzada, or death cross, dissolving the Assembly and calling for new elections for the Assembly and the presidency. The death cross allows him to rule by decree until a new Assembly is installed, a period of six to eight months.
Assemblyman Juan Fernando Flores (CREO) believes Lasso will take his time in making a decision. “He will defend himself in the trial and then gauge his chances of surviving a final vote. At that point he will decide on an action.”