Striking a markedly different tone toward the National Assembly than he did two months ago, President Guillermo Lasso said Tuesday that it is time to “cross the bridge toward new opportunities for Ecuador.” In his annual report to the nation at the National Assembly, Lasso also insisted that the country has “turned the corner” in its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and that progress is being made in the fight against crime.
The president’s speech comes at a time when all branches of the government appear to be in crisis. His own public support and that of the National Assembly are near historic lows, while the country’s justice system faces charges of political intrigue.
“We must restore governability to the country and we must work together for the benefit of all Ecuadorians,” Lasso said. “Enough of the fighting. Enough of the blockades to progress. We must now move forward.”
In March, Lasso called the Assembly a “den of obstruction” and said he would rule the country by “decree and resolutions.” His comments followed the rejection by the Assembly of his efforts to reform labor law and to attract investment.
Lasso said “some great things have been accomplished” during the past year. He said the government’s vaccination program against the Covid-19 virus was “one of the most successful in the world” and has saved thousands of lives. “At one point, we delivered 420,000 thousand doses a day, the highest rate of any country in the world.
He also claimed that the economy is growing again and that poverty has been reduced. “Last year, extreme poverty affected 15.45 percent of our citizens while today that number has been reduced to 10.5 percent,” he said. “A year ago, our economy was stagnant and today the gross national product is growing again, at the rate of 4.2 percent. We are attracting investments again and signing trade agreements that will increase the exports of our products.”
Lasso also cited “progress” in the fight against drug violence, citing the addition of 3,000 police personnel in hard-hit coastal communities. “We have also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this critically important battle against crime.”
Lasso appeared to take National Assembly President Guadalupe Llori’s advice and deliver a message of “conciliation, hope and friendship” although he offered no direct support for her effort to keep her job. An Assembly commission meets Wednesday to discuss her “breach of duty” and most observers believe she will be replaced within a matter of weeks.
Following Lasso’s address, political commentators agreed it will have little impact on government gridlock. University of San Francisco history professor Pablo Carrillo called the speech “happy talk” and said there is no indication that the president and his opponents can come together.
“We are at a low ebb in terms of agreement of how the country should be governed,” he said in a radio interview Tuesday afternoon. “Unfortunately, this comes at a time when we face extreme challenges. The president has been busy making trade agreements that may or not benefit the country while the Assembly is consumed with the fight over Llori’s position. Not much is getting done.”
Carrillo says there is a “power vacuum in Quito” that shows no indication of being filled any time soon. “With the president’s popularity nearing 20 percent, you would think his opposition, particularly the Correistas, would benefit but this is not the case. In all the polls, support for the National Assembly, where the Correistas have the largest voting bloc, is less than 10 percent. The opposition is even more unpopular than the president.”