As the newly elected National Assembly meets today for the first time, it already faces controversy. In a deal only revealed late Wednesday, the Assembly’s two conservative parties, Creo (Creating Opportunity) and the Social Christians, have formed an alliance with the leftist Correista Unes (Union of Hope) party. Assembly members from both the right and left attacked the agreement and one journalist called it a “deal of the devil,” orchestrated by President-elect and Creo member Guillermo Lasso.
The arrangement, if it plays out as planned, gives the Assembly presidency to Henry Kronfle of the Social Christians and key committee chairs to members of Unes.
Early in the week, it appeared that a candidate from the indigenous Pachakutik party, probably Salvador Quishpe, would be voted Assembly president. Pachakutik had announced a coalition with the center-left Democratic Left party and was talking to members of smaller parties, independents and some Correistas to form a majority in the 137-seat Assembly.
“This development is shocking,” says political consultant and former deputy foreign minister Carlos Aquino. “Between Creo and the Social Christians, there are only 29 votes, and given the leftist composition of the rest of the Assembly it looked like conservatives would be left out in the cold. Now, there’s is talk of betrayal and secret deals that will be a continuing theme in this Assembly.”
In particular, Aquino says he hears rumors that the deal involves amnesty for former vice president under Rafael Correa, Jorge Glas. “If this happens, there will be an uproar from both the right and the left,” he said. “I am also hearing that the Correistas are insisting on establishing a truth commission that could exonerate convicted members of the Correa government.”
Guayaquil assemblyman César Rohon, aligned with the Social Christians, says he is “disgusted” by the new alliance and is considering becoming independent. “For years, the conservatives and centrists have opposed every aspect of the Correista agenda and now we are bed with them. I cannot believe it.” He added that he thinks it will be difficult for the Assembly to function under the new arrangement. “Everything coming from the leadership now will look like dirty politics.”
Members of the Pachakutik and Democractic Left, which control 47 Assembly votes, are also voicing outrage. “It was members of our constituency that put Lasso in office,” says Pachakutik assemblywoman Patricia Sánchez. “Most of our supporters who did not vote nulo in the second election and 80 percent of the Democractic Left supported Lasso and now he does this to us.”
Sánchez said she is particularly upset at rumors that the new alliance involves grants of amnesty for members of the Correa government convicted of crimes. “Rafael Correa put four of our Pachakutik colleagues in prison so there is no way we can support this. It is our red line.”
Former El Universo editor and publisher of a conservative political blog, José Hernández, calls the alliance between Creo, the Social Christians and the Correistas the “devil’s work” and blames Lasso for arranging it. “What a bad deal you bought for yourself, Mr. President,” he writes in an editorial. “Now, you will have to answer to all the rumors raised by this marriage and whether you have agreed to review the trials of criminals. Do you want a truth commission that nicely rearranges the facts so that you can wash your hands in international courts? Is this true, Mr. President? Do you want an impunity agreement? What kind of governance can you provide after making such a deal? Are democracy and this government to be held hostage to this deal?”
Hernández says he still holds out hope, albeit faint, that Lasso’s arrangement with the Correistas will fall apart at the last minute. “Hope springs eternal,” he says. “On the other hand, I am a realist and don’t expect miracles.”