For the second time in a little more than a month, an opposition effort to reshape the government has failed in the National Assembly. On Thursday night, the Union of Hope (UNES) and Social Christian (PSC) bloc fell five votes short of dismissing three members of the Judicial Council it considers aligned with President Guillermo Lasso.
As 49 Assembly members abstained, the Correista-sponsored vote fell five votes short of the 92 required to remove the Council members.
On June 28, the same anti-government coalition failed by 10 votes to impeach Lasso, a result that helped end the nationwide indigenous strike.
The vote was preceded by heated exchanges on the Assembly floor between supporters and opponents of the judicial dismissals. Fernando Villavicencio, president of the Assembly’s Oversight Commission, claimed the push to replace Judicial Council members was part of the Corresita plan to establish a “truth commission” that would invalidate the corruption conviction against former president Rafael Correa and allow his return to Ecuador. Correa is currently living in exile in Belgium.
In the debate, Villavicencio, an independent, said that “narco money” was funding some members of the Corresita UNES party and the plan to “take over and control” parts of the government. “The motives are absurdly clear and I will be happy to see them fail again. The plan is nothing less than replace an independent judiciary with ideologues who will follow political orders.”
UNES member Ronny Aleaga responded, calling Villavicencio a “scoundrel” who was uninterested in hearing the case of “actions and omissions” of the Judicial Council members and evidence of “dereliction of duty.” He also called Villavicencio’s suggestion of drug money supporting the Correistas “hysterical.”
Following Aleaga’s comments rebutting the drug money claim, Villavicencio said, “I rest my case.” In June, photos of Aleaga appeared on social media showing him in Miami with two men who had been convicted in absentia of hospital fraud in Guayaquil. Another photo showed Aleaga with an alleged leader of a Mexican drug cartel.
Political analyst and former Assembly member Alfredo Espinoza said Thursday’s vote is “another presentation of a nation in gridlock.” Although the Corresistas enjoy a large majority in the National Assembly, Espinoza says it cannot muster the two-third vote necessary to take control of government functions. “What we have is an Assembly enthralled in hero worship of a disgraced former president and a current president who lacks ideas about how to lead the country out of economic and social crises and seems satisfied with living in a state of stasis.”
He added: “It is very sad that, at a time when Ecuador desperately needs strong leadership, it has none and that petty, selfish interests dominate the national debate.”