With the appointment of a new government minister, Lasso signals major change in strategy
A day after announcing he could no longer work the with National Assembly, President Guillermo Lasso announced the appointment of a new Minister of Government who says one of his missions is to “build bridges” between the president and the Assembly.
Francisco Jiménez, a member of Lasso’s CREO party, resigned his National Assembly seat Wednesday morning and was sworn in as Government Minister in the afternoon. He replaces Alexandra Vela who resigned Tuesday, saying she and Lasso disagreed on the issue of dissolving the Assembly and calling new elections. Vela believed that the so-called death cross, or death crusade, should be invoked immediately to prevent a takeover of the Assembly by supporters of former president Rafael Correa.
In announcing Jiménez’s appointment, Lasso said he was dividing the Government Ministry into two sections, with the new Ministry of the Interior to be headed by former Police Commander Patricio Carrillo. According to Lasso, Carrillo will focus on national security and law enforcement issues.
Jiménez’s role of working with the Assembly left some assembly members and political analysts puzzled. “On Wednesday, the president is saying to hell with the Assembly, I plan to rule by public consultation and decree and the next day he hires a guy who is known for working across ideological lines in the Assembly,” says former presidential consultant and political blogger Juan Parra. “The sudden change makes your head spin and tells us there is something going on behind the scenes.”
Parra adds that Jiménez has deep ties to several assembly members of the Correista Union of Hope (UNES) who have been blocking Lasso’s legislative agenda. “There’s a drama playing out here that we don’t yet understand. There’s no doubt there have been a lot of meetings and phone calls in the last 48 hours.”
Rafael Lucero, member of the Pachakutik Assembly faction that has opposed most of Lasso’s proposals, said he was “a little confused” by Wednesday’s announcements but glad to see Jiménez working with the president. “Everyone likes Francisco and we can work with him on some things. Despite political differences, he has many friends among in the sectors of the Assembly. He is also a friend of President Correa. Maybe we are about to see a new direction in government.”
In comments following his appointment, Jiménez said he is not contradicting Lasso’s Wednesday plan to govern by decree, regulation and popular referendum. “This is part of the president’s strategy given the divisions in the Assembly but we are not turning our backs on the Assembly. He needs many tools to run the affairs of the country. On the other hand, we plan to work to reduce the tensions that have developed in recent weeks and to build bridges between our differences if possible.”
Regarding new directions, Parra says it’s important to keep in mind why Vela wanted Lasso to call the death cross. “She was a staunch anti-Correista and wanted no compromise with UNES. She would blow up the Assembly to stop them from gaining power. Lasso disagreed and is apparently open to compromise. Jiménez signals that change.”