“Let’s talk.” That was the message National Assembly President Virgilio Saquicela sent President Guillermo Lasso Monday. “I am asking him to establish a commission composed of government and Assembly representatives to work out differences on proposed laws to avoid his use of the total veto,” Saquicela. “The total veto has the effect of negating the work of the Assembly.”
Under Ecuador’s constitution, a total veto means a law cannot be reconsidered by the Assembly for at least a year, precluding a veto override vote.
Saquicela’s request to Lasso follows a total veto of the Humanitarian Support Law which addressed wage and labor issues in light of Covid-19 pandemic hardships. Lasso is also expected to apply a total veto to the revised communications law passed last week by the Assembly.
In Monday comments, Saquicela said use of the total veto “harms” the Assembly’s effectiveness. “We were elected by the people of Ecuador to enact legislation and in the spirit of fairness I am asking the president to participate in dialog to avoid the total veto. If we can’t work out our differences through talks, I encourage him to use his partial veto authority so we can attempt to resolve problems within the legislative process.”
Former presidential advisor Lauro Perez believes Lasso will ignore Saquicela’s request for dialog. “If he does, in fact, agree to set up a committee, it will be mostly perfunctory,” Perez says. “The total veto is one of the few areas of power the president has left. He has lost control of the Assembly to the Correistas and his ministers come and go at such a fast pace it is difficult for the government to have a coherent policy. The last thing he’ll do is give up his veto power.”
Perez adds: “There’s also a problem with Saquicela’s credibilit. When he took over as Assembly president, there was hope at Carondelet [presidential palace] that he would try to build cooperation between the government and the Assembly, since he identifies himself as an independent. But then, he voted for the presidential impeachment and it is now clear he has thrown in with the Correistas. Why would Lasso trust him?”
Pablo Hamilton, host of a political analysis radio program in Quito, sees Saquicela’s plan going nowhere. “I am afraid the gridlock will be with us until the next election and Lasso will use the veto to perpetuate it,” he says. “What else can you expect when you have president with a 24 percent approval rating and an Assembly with 5 percent. It’s a sad state of affairs all around.”