Impeachment trial could be delayed by dispute over the formal charges against Lasso

Apr 5, 2023 | 10 comments

The beginning of the impeachment trial of President Guillermo Lasso could be delayed because of disagreements among National Assembly members defining the charges against him. President of the Oversight Commission Fernando Villavicencio insists that members should follow the directive of the Constitutional Court in presenting allegations to the full Assembly.

The National Assembly is awaiting a document of formal charges against President Guillermo Lasso from the Oversight Commission.

“The court instructed us that the trial must be focused on the crime of embezzlement in the Flopec case,” Villavicencio said Tuesday. “Impeachment is restricted to that issue and if we add others we are in violation of the Court’s instructions.”

Commission members Roberto Cuero, Gabriela Molina and Viviana Veloz, members of the Correista UNES party, accused Villavicencio of “restricting the scope of impeachment” and demanded that other charges against Lasso be included in the final document.

Veloz said the charges should reflect the “full range of the Lasso’s misdeeds” and cannot be confined to a single issue. “Yes, we must follow the Court’s advice but it must be recognized that the Assembly is not a criminal court of law and it will follow a different process.”

Córdova accused Villavicencio of “defending the president” and defying the Assembly’s intent.

Villavicencio responded that some Assembly members are attempting to reintroduce the charge of extortion against Lasso, a charge the Court said was not applicable. “My position is simple,” he said. “I will follow the order of the Court in the document we submit to the Assembly. Let’s put our attention on Flopec.”

In its decision, the Constitutional Court said that evidence of imbezzlement against Lasso was sufficient to allow the impeachment trial to proceed. It rejected the charge of extortion, saying the evidence was “weak and incoherent.”

Flopec, short for the Ecuadorian Oil Fleet, is responsible for contracting the transport of oil to buyers around the world. The allegations the Assembly presented to the Court claim that “corruption and fraud was committed” in a contract with the Amazonas Tanker company.

Lasso denies the charge, saying the contract was signed before he took office and that he instructed the Attorney General’s office to investigate the case when he and his staff detected irregularities.

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