Lasso says he will rule by decree and public referendum, setting up a battle with the Assembly

Mar 30, 2022 | 83 comments

Following last week’s defeat of his investment law by the National Assembly, President Guillermo Lasso said Tuesday that he will govern the country by decree and public referendum, bypassing the Assembly.

President Guillermo Lasso lays out his plan to govern without the National Assembly during a Tuesday interview.

“Given its refusal to participate in the revitalization of the country, I have no choice but to lead without the support of the National Assembly,” the president said during an interview at Carondelet Palace. “I will use the other means of governance at my disposal, including popular consultation and executive decree. I will go directly to the Ecuadorian people to achieve what the Assembly refuses to deal with.”

Lasso said he will lay out his strategy in the coming days but says he is not considering invoking the muerte cruzada, or crossed death, which would dissolve the Assembly and require new elections for both the Assembly and the presidency. “That is a last resort,” he said. “At this time, I prefer to work through other channels.”

Alexandra Vela

After Lasso’s announcement, Government Minister Alexandra Vela submitted her resignation, saying that the crossed death should be applied immediately. “This is a government in crisis and the time is now to call new elections,” she said. “With the Assembly blockage of all reasonable proposals, I do not see how the country can be governed and see no other option than the crossed death. We are in a constitutional crisis and the fact cannot be swept under the rug.”

Lasso’s opposition in the National Assembly reacted angrily to his announcement, claiming the legislative branch cannot be ignored. “We will not be denied our role under the constitution and we cannot be ignored,” said Marlon Cadena, a Democratic Left assemblyman who voted against the investment law. “The National Assembly provides the legal counter-balance against executive authority and we intend to maintain that balance no matter what the president says. The president says we are blocking government functions but this is simply his opinion. Yes, we stand in opposition to some of his policies but that is our right as elected officials.”

In his interview, Lasso said Ecuador faces an economic crisis. “We are emerging from a terrible health pandemic that has left a record number of our countrymen and women without employment or with inadequate employment,” he said. “More than 70 percent work in the informal market with many living in poverty. I refuse to play politics with the opposition in the Assembly given the situation.”

Most political analysts agree with Vela that calling new elections is the only way out of the crisis. “What Lasso is proposing is reactive, not proactive, and I don’t see it as a solution,” says Simon Pachano, professor of Latin American Studies and Social Sciences at the Universidad Latinoamericana (Flacso) in Quito. “I see no alternative to the crossed death and new elections and believe the president will be forced to call it eventually. It’s certainly inconvenient for the country and could lead to major destabilization but what is the option? I am certain Lasso will soon arrive at this conclusion even though it may mean the end of his presidency.”

Pachano says there is no doubt that the Assembly has come under control of the followers of former president Rafael Correa. “Yes, they want to take over the government, the Assembly and the presidency, and they want to cause as much upheaval as possible to this end. They may ultimately succeed. At this point I think it is impossible that any proposal from Lasso, no matter how reasonable, would not advance through the legislature.”

Juan Parra, a one-time advisor to Correa, agrees that Lasso’s approach is doomed to fail. “Under the constitution the Assembly has roles that the president cannot ignore. Budgeting is one of them.”

Parra also says it’s impossible to predict the outcome of new elections. “Lasso has a higher standing in public opinion than the Assembly but this is always the case. I believe new elections would bring new faces to the Assembly but I am not sure the politics and ideology would change. On the other hand, I think the presidential race would be wide open between Lasso, the Correista and indigenous candidates.”


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