For a second time in a week, President Guillermo Lasso is refusing to appear before the National Assembly’s Constitutional Guarantees Commission investigating his investments in off-shore companies before 2017. The president did not show up for a Wednesday hearing and he says he will not appear on Friday.
Lasso’s investments were disclosed in the recent release of the “Pandora Papers,” a report that lists the foreign financial holdings of dozens of the world’s top political leaders. The president said he liquidated all his off-shore accounts in 2017 following passage of a law making it illegal for office holders, candidates for office and government employees to hold accounts outside of Ecuador.
Commission chair José Cabascango claims that Lasso has a “constitutional responsibility” to appear and suggested that it might be an impeachable offense if he is a no-show for a second time. “This is a mandatory, not a voluntary call to the president,” he said. “He is obliged, as are all public officials, to provide information on this issue and to appear at the request of the commission.”
In a short letter to the commission, Lasso said he “respectfully declines” the invitation to appear, saying that he has delivered all documents relating to the investments in question to the comptroller’s office, which he says is the property authority to investigate the matter.
On Wednesday, Lasso’s wife and three children also refused to appear before the commission.
Lasso claims the Assembly’s Pandora Papers investigation is a “distraction and a side show” to the more important issue of revitalizing the economy. “Let the proper authorities look into this and decide if I did anything wrong,” he said in a Tweet. “If I did, I will be punished. On the other hand, my job and the job of the Assembly is to put Ecuador on the road to economic health. I am resubmitting the ‘Opportunities’ proposal to meet the requirements of the Assembly and this is the matter we should all be discussing.”
Several members of the Constitutional Guarantees Commission objected to Cabascango’s claim that Lasso’s refusal to appear is grounds for impeachment. They also claimed Cabascango refused to allow them to speak at Wednesday’s meeting to voice their objections.
On Thursday, the Attorney General’s office opened an investigation of Lasso’s off-shore investments based on a complaint filed by former presidential candidate Yaku Pérez. Lasso said he will cooperate with that investigation as well as with the comptroller’s office.