The National Assembly of Ecuador has initiated impeachment proceedings against President Guillermo Lasso, who is accused of corruption in relation to an embezzlement scheme involving a state-owned oil transport company. However, the hearings could lead to a potentially explosive confrontation between the president and the country’s unicameral legislature. Experts have speculated that Lasso may invoke a never-before-used constitutional clause known as “two-way death”, which would enable him to dissolve the legislature and end his presidency.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Lasso denied any wrongdoing, stating that there was no evidence or relevant testimonies against him. He also claimed that the accusations against him proved his total, evident, and unquestionable innocence. However, members of the opposition rejected his claims and called for an end to government corruption.
The hearing focused on Lasso’s decision not to intervene in an embezzlement scheme between the state-owned oil transport company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana and the private entity Amazonas Tankers. Opponents claim that the scheme resulted in millions of dollars in losses for the state and is part of a pattern of corruption within the administration.
Lasso’s supporters argue that he had no responsibility to intervene in the deal between the two companies, as it had been struck before he took office in 2021. They also point out that investigators have found no penal responsibility, so there can’t be a political one.
Lasso has previously hinted that he could trigger the “muerte cruzada” or “two-way death” clause of Ecuador’s constitution if he appears to be on the cusp of impeachment. This decision could happen at any time before the vote. If he triggers this clause, it would mean dissolving Congress, ending his presidency, and calling for early elections. However, he would then have the opportunity to continue governing by decree for the next six months. This move is considered an extreme political decision and could lead to protests and further instability in the country.
The opposition believes it has the supermajority needed to succeed in its impeachment attempt. A supermajority is reached with 92 votes out of the 137-person chamber, which is a two-thirds majority. Lasso narrowly survived an impeachment vote last year, with only 80 legislators voting in favour.
Opinions on Lasso’s impeachment are divided among the citizens of Quito. Some support the impeachment, stating that the Congress is representing the will of the people. Others believe that Lasso should be allowed to finish his term in office since he won a majority in the election.
The Organization of American States has called on Ecuadorian legislators to “offer all the guarantees of justice and respect the rules of due process” during the impeachment proceedings. The outcome of the impeachment hearings remains uncertain, and it is unclear whether Lasso will invoke the “two-way death” clause or whether he will be impeached.