President Guillermo Lasso said he would dissolve the National Assembly and call early elections if he does not muster enough support among legislators ahead of a potential impeachment hearing, the Financial Times said on Tuesday. Although Lasso had earlier said invoking the so-called “cross death” was one of his options, this was the first time he said he would use it if impeachment appeared imminent
The comments made in an interview with the Financial Times, come a day after lawyers representing him asked lawmakers to declare the impeachment hearing inadmissible, denying the accusations of embezzlement against him.
“Correct, correct. That’s what I declare,” the newspaper quoted Lasso as saying in response to a question whether he would invoke a constitutional clause to force elections for both his own job and the Assembly.
The constitution allows Lasso to call new elections if he feels the country’s stability is at risk. He said that an impeachment trial would pose such a risk.
Lasso was interviewed by phone from his hospital bed at the Military Hospital in Quito where he is being treated for a urinary tract infection.
Opposition lawmakers in the Assembly have pushed for impeachment for two months and received the go-ahead from the Constitutional Court three weeks ago. The court said a charge of embezzlement against Lasso had sufficient evidence to justify a trial. It threw out a second charge of extortion, which it said did not.
Opposition lawmakers will need 92 votes from the 137 members of the Assembly to find Lasso guilty if the process reaches the final stage. A guilty verdict would dismiss him from office.
The embezzlement accusations concern a shipping contract for crude oil between public company Flopec and private sector business Amazonas Tanker Pool Company LLC.
Last month, an Ecuadorian opposition lawmaker said there was compelling evidence to present against Lasso at an impeachment hearing, including irregularities in the crude oil shipping contract. The Assembly oversight committee will begin impeachment hearings this week.