Only days after it appeared Guillermo Lasso’s presidency was in serious jeopardy, the case against him is collapsing. On Monday, the commission report recommending that the National Assembly begin impeachment proceedings seemed, itself, to be in jeopardy of not being accepted by the full Assembly.
“This was a house of cards from the beginning and now it is falling apart,” says former interior minister and assembly member María Paula Romo. “This was a Correista plan directed from Brussels by Rafael Correa himself and, in the end, it failed because it was based on a series of unsubstantiated claims and lies.”
The first blow against the Constitutional Guarantee Commission report was delivered Monday morning by commission member Edgar Quezada who initially supported the report and the call for an impeachment trial. “At the last minute, the text was changed to include the charge against the president of creating social and political instability,” he said. “I had no choice but to abstain in the vote because there is no credible basis to support this.”
Quezada, a member of the Pachakutik party, added he believes the language was inserted under pressure from Correista Union of Hope (UNES) commission members because there is no “hard evidence” for the charge that Lasso violated a 2017 law against holding overseas bank accounts and assets. “There may be evidence for this but I haven’t seen it and it will require a full investigation to find it if it exists. I cannot support an effort to remove the president until the facts support it.”
Lasso’s overseas holdings were revealed in the Pandora Papers, released last month. Lasso claims he dissolved the accounts that violated the law before he ran for president in 2017 and submitted documents to the National Elections Commission he says support his claim.
Also on Monday, other members of Pachakutik, the Democratic Left (ID) and the Social Christians announced that they would not vote to accept the report, the first step in impeachment process. ID member Alejandro Jaramillo, who earlier said he would consider impeachment, said he would not vote for it. “It appears to be the report’s intention to show a situation of instability and anarchy when none exists. In fact, it is the report itself that is creating the instability.”
Jaramillo says that the claim for political instability arose during the Conaie and labor protests three weeks ago. “The fact is, those protests did not generate the popular support the leaders expected and they were called off. If anything, the failure of the protests proves there is no instability with the government.”
On Monday afternoon, it was not clear when, or even if, Assembly President Guadalupe Llori will schedule a vote to accept the commission report. Originally, the plan was to vote within 72 hours but Llori postponed the vote on procedural grounds. Aides to Llori say she opposes an impeachment trial without more evidence.
To be accepted by the full National Assembly, the report needs the support of 70 of the 137 members. To remove the president from office requires 90 votes.