No one disputes the fact that Vice President Jorge Glas is in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges. The question is whether or not he’s on vacation.
According to five Alianza País (AP) National Assembly members, President Lenin Moreno’s appointment of María Alejandra Vicuña as interim vice president is illegal since Glas is on a 60-day vacation. The group petitioned the constitutional court on Tuesday, asking it to nullify Vicuña’s appointment based on the fact that an employee cannot be replaced while he or she is on vacation.
Assemblyman Carlos Viteri, who is part of group of AP members loyal to Glas and former president Rafael Correa, claims that Glas has the right to enjoy his vacation like any other employee in Ecuador. “The right to a vacation is in the constitution no matter where you choose to take it,” he says. “We are asking the court to recognize the illegality of the president’s decree to appoint Vicuña and order it rescinded.” Viteri contends that it does not matter that Glas is in jail. “He announced his vacation before he went to jail and he has not been convicted of anything yet. He is still the legal vice president of Ecuador.”
According to Vicuña, Glas is not on vacation since he did not ask for time off through the proper channels. “By rule, he had to request vacation time from the president, and he did not,” she says. “Instead, he notified the president’s secretary who cannot and did not authorize the vacation.”
She added: “I agree with Assemblyman Viteri that everyone deserves a vacation but there is a proper method for requesting and receiving permission for it.”
The issue is a hot topic on social media. In a widely circulated Facebook cartoon, Glas is pictured behind prison bars, in sunglasses and bathing suit, reclining on a chaise lounge. Beside him, a toy sail boat floats in a bucket of water. In a second version of the same cartoon, Viteri is pictured sitting beside Glas wearing his colorful indigenous headdress but also sporting a clown’s red nose.
Things went from bad to worse Friday for Glas when the federal comptroller ordered the firing of the vice president for “gross incompetence” in the handling of a 2012 oil contract. Glas, who was Coordinating Minister of Strategic Sectors when the contract was signed, was one of more than 20 government officials cited in awarding an oil drilling contract in the Singue block in northeastern Ecuador. Glas become vice president in 2013.
According to the report by Comptroller Pablo Celi, the lack of due diligence and violation of more than a dozen federal bidding and contracting rules, cost the country millions of dollars.
It is unclear if Celi’s order that Glas be terminated carries legal weight, despite the fact that at least one federal rule appears to give him the authority. According to the constitution, a vice president can only be removed from office by a vote of the National Assembly. Celi’s investigation findings are strictly administrative and carry no legal weight, although his report said that fraud may have occurred in the Singue block deal.
Glas’ attorney Franco Loor, called Celi’s order “absurd,” saying that a “comptroller does not have the right to fire the vice president.”
It appears increasingly likely that Glas could soon face an impeachment trial in the National Assembly. At least two member of the AP delegation who previously opposed a trial, say they are now in favor of one, and several other party members say they are leaning toward beginning proceedings.