Lasso pleads innocent at National Assembly impeachment trial, calls those seeking his ouster ‘anti-democratic’
In a short but emotional speech, President Guillermo Lasso defended himself against embezzlement charges before the National Assembly Tuesday afternoon.
Accompanied by his wife and presidential cabinet, Lasso claimed that his accusers had shown no proof that he committed a crime involving a public oil transport company and accused them of exhibiting “malicious inventiveness unparalleled in the history of the Republic.”
In his 40-minute address, the president called the impeachment trial “illegitimate” for violating rules established by the Constitutional Court. “The court may soon rule on these proceedings and end this farce,” he said.
Lasso personally called out those who pushed hardest for the impeachment trial, naming Assembly members Viviana Veloz, Pedro Zapata, Mireya Pazmiño and Rodrigo Fajardo.
“I accuse you of having abandoned your role as legislators,” he said. “Now, you are anti-legislators and anti-democratic because you do not create laws but destroy them. You do not entrench our standards, but weaken, tear down and outrage them. You do not think about how to create conditions of coexistence, but how to break them for their own selfish convenience.”
Following Lasso’s address, the Assembly began a debate that included frequent insults and catcalls.
Veloz accused Lasso of being out-of-touch and ineffective, referring to him as the “outgoing president.” Over shouts from the president’s supporters, she said: “You, Mister President, have three paths: resignation, impeachment and jail,” Veloz said. “You are politically liquidated, and your time has come to an end.”
In several angry exchanges, Assembly members traded charges of who was the most corrupt president, Lasso or Rafael Correa. “Obviously, it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black for the Correistas to make charges against the president,” said Eithel Zambrano, responding to the Correista Mireya Pazmiño. “Your man [Correa] oversaw the most corrupt government in Ecuador’s history and if he dares to come home, he will go to jail. Look at all his henchmen who are fugitives from justice, living in Miami, Mexico and Venezuela. If you want to talk about corruption, first consider your own corrupt people.”
Among the angry exchanges was an inter-party exchange between members of the indigenous Pachakutik bloc. When two Pachakutik speakers insisted that all indigenous Assembly members support impeachment, Mario Ruiz responded that the indigenous should never forget the treatment they received during the Correa administration. “He ordered us clubbed and bloodied our heads, he threw us in jail,” he said. “Is this the way we want to go? I say no.”
Although Lasso had the opportunity to respond to Assembly debate, he chose to leave early.
Following Tuesday’s Assembly debate, Lasso’s staff and supporters continued to claim there are not sufficient votes for impeachment. “We are feeling more confident about the outcome as more Assembly members are speaking publicly about their rejection of this trial,” said Juan Pablo Ortiz, Lasso’s Legal Secretary said. “We appreciate today’s announcement from the Pachakutik members that they will not support the Correista coup.”