Over presidential objections, National Assembly grants amnesty to 268 arrested during protests
The National Assembly has granted amnesty to 268 people arrested during anti-government protests, including 60 involved in the sometimes violent October 2019 protests against former president Lenin Moreno. The measure was approved by 99 of the Assembly’s 137 members.
Among those absolved of convictions and alleged crimes are current Conaie President Leonidas Iza and past president Jaime Vargas who are under investigation for instigating rebellion during the 2019 protests. Also receiving amnesty are Pichincha Province Prefect Paola Pabón and former National Assembly members Virgilio Hernández and Yoffre Poma.
President Guillermo Lasso, on an official trip to Chile, blasted the vote, calling it an “act of injustice” and an “insult to law enforcement personnel who risk their lives to protect lives and property.” The president claimed that some of those given amnesty committed violent acts and deserved the justice they received.
In particular, Lasso objected to amnesty for 27 protesters who were prosecuted for setting fire to the National Comptroller’s building in October 2019. “These were thugs and arsonists destroying public property and public records,” he said. “They do not deserve the honor bestowed on them by the Assembly.”
The amnesty was supported by Assembly President Guadalupe Llori who narrowly avoided an attack on leadership earlier in the session. Llori was arrested and jailed in 2007 on terrorism charges for her role in a strike against oil production in Orellana Province, where she served as prefect. Former president Rafael Correa called her an “ignorant indian” for damaging Ecuador’s reputation with international oil companies.
Although most of those involved in the Orellana strike were granted amnesty in 2008, Llori remained jailed until a judge ordered her release in January 2009.
In a press briefing at the Presidential Palace, Lasso adviser Diego Ordóñez claimed the Assembly’s vote sent a dangerous message to those who would attack government institutions and defenders of the peace. “What this actions does is announce to the world that we should forget the attacks that damaged our institutions and injured those who protect us. It is nothing less than an invitation to attack the democracy we have worked so hard to build.”
Supporters of amnesty say that very few of the cases pardoned involved violence. “Many of the people participated in environmental protests in local communities,” says Pabón. “They were fighting for clean water and against big mining and oil companies. Others were women demanding justice for femicide victims. In many cases, the arrrests were politically motivated during the Correa and Moreno presidencies.”
Although amnesty expunges the records of those convicted and ends ongoing investigations, it does not exempt the arrested from civil or administrative lawsuits or responsibility for property damage. Quito criminal lawyer Gabriel Ponce says that those convicted of arson and other damage to the Comptroller’s Office will still have to pay for repairs. “Under the law, the Assembly action does not excuse them of this responsibility.”