Lasso vows a fight for his personal integrity in trial; Death cross is the ‘elephant in the room’

Mar 31, 2023 | 18 comments

Proclaiming his innocence, President Guillermo Lasso said Thursday night he believes he can “overcome and prevail” in the National Assembly’s impeachment trial.

Accompanied by his wife, María de Lourdes Alcívar, Lasso said he can prove he did not commit extortion or embezzlement in a contract with oil transport company Flopec. “In my personal, professional and public life I have always acted with the good intensions and I think this will be proven in the trial,” he said. “My enemies plan to evaluate my management based on evidence obtained fraudulently and the court has said that this is inadmissible. We will see what they come up with.”

Lawyers and government ministers met Thursday with President Guillermo Lasso at the Presidential Palace.

The president added that the contract with Flopec was signed in 2018, before he assumed office. “I wait to see how they connect me to a contract that expired in 2020.”

He also said he was pleased that the Constitutional Court rejected the Assembly’s allegations of extortion. “Although I am disappointed the judges allowed the trial to go forward, I am heartened that the most serious charge against me was dismissed.”

He added that he is “outraged” by the attack on his personal integrity. “This is a desperate attempt to rob the country of stability and it is my goal to restore stability.”

Several legal experts said Thursday that the Court’s decision to throw out extortion allegations benefits the president. “It weakens the Assembly’s case and could affect several votes in the chamber,” says constitutional law expert Pamela Aguirre. “This is one of several moving parts in the case that will affect the outcome. Since the Court’s decision, two Assembly members have said they are reevaluating their positions.”

Lasso met Thursday morning with lawyers and cabinet minister to discuss his strategy in the upcoming trial. “This will be a lengthy process but we feel confidant about the president’s position in the final analysis,” said legal advisor Carlos Corral. “There are many factors that support his innocence, including the lack of evidence.”

In his Thursday comments, Lasso did not mention his option of invoking the death cross, which would dissolve the Assembly and call for new elections. His supporters, however, have made it clear that it is available if necessary. “It is the elephant in the room and is something that most members of the National Assembly are fearful of,” Aguirre says. “Complicating matters, Lasso can wait until the last minute, before an impeachment vote is taken, to use it if he feels he will lose.”

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