Ecuador’s National Assembly has fired its president, José Serrano, and ordered an impeachment trial for Attorney General Carlos Baca. In a marathon session Friday night in which both Serrano and Baca were allowed to present a defense, the assembly voted overwhelming to dismiss Serrano although 31 members of the 137-member body did not attend.
Within minutes of the vote Elizabeth Cabezas appeared poised to replace Serrano. Like Serrano, she is a member of Alianza País (AP), the largest voting bloc in the assembly. President Lenin Moreno sent a message to the Assembly, supporting Cabezas’ candidancy.
The assembly action was prompted by charges made by Baca in press a conference two weeks ago in which he accused Serrano and a former federal comptroller of plotting to remove him from office. Baca released a tape recording of a phone conversation between Serrano and Carlos Polit, accused of taking $10 million in bribes from the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, who currently lives in exile in Miami. On the tape, Serrano and Polit talk about documents that Polit says will implicate Baca in an embezzlement scheme and force his resignation.
The intent of Baca’s removal, according to comments in the tape, appear aimed at clearing the way for a presidential run by Serrano. In the comments, Serrano says that Baca also has presidential ambitions.
The vote to remove Serrano and begin impeachment proceedings against Baca was 103 in favor and three abstentions.
The embezzlement charges against Baca are being investigated by Assistant Attorney General Thania Moreno, and stem from a 2010 police strike that former president Rafael Correa called an attempted coup. Baca headed an investigation of the strike that supported Correa’s contention although more recent information question the claim.