Ecuador’s National Assembly approved a resolution Thursday night demanding that Vice President María Alejandra Vicuña resign her position. The vote was 77 to 0 with 24 abstentions.
The vote follows charges made earlier in the week that Vicuña demanded payment from one of her employees when she served in the assembly from 2011 to 2013. Two weeks ago, the assembly expelled assemblywoman Norma Vallejo on similar charges.
Vicuña denies the charge, calling it an “infamy concocted by the political opposition,” and says the payments she received from Ángel Sagbay Mejía were his obligation to the Alianza Bolivariana Alfarista political party. According to Sagbay, he paid more than $20,000 over a two-year period, all of it deposited in Vicuña’s personal bank account.
According to the federal prosecutor’s office, which is investigating the case, payments to political parties must be deposited directly into party accounts and cannot pass through personal accounts.
Earlier in the week, President Lenin Moreno announced that he would not interfere in the investigation. “I am disturbed by the charges against the vice president but I will allow the legal process to proceed as it should. It is not my job to act as judge in this matter,” he said.
In his affidavit, Sagbay claims he paid a monthly “tithe” to Vicuña while working for her when she was an assembly member. He says he paid $300 a month in 2012 and $1,400 a month in 2013.
It is unclear what will happen if the assembly proceeds with an impeachment trial since its action must be reviewed and approved by the Constitutional Court, Ecuador’s highest court. The Constitutional Court is currently vacant following the dismissal of its judges by the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control (Cpccs) earlier this year.