UNES leads a four-party effort to impeach the President thru political prosecution on the grounds that he has failed to meet the requirements of office outlined in the Constitution.
The Assembly is again seeking to remove President Guillermo Lasso from office. There are two Constitutional choices available to them to force a Head of State to leave office – outright dismissal by political prosecution or a declaration of mental incapacity.
Even after a failed impeachment attempt last June following the national mobilization led by Conaie, the talk of removing the President from office has continued.
This time, his opponents in the Assembly want to try a political prosecution, which could end in his censure and dismissal.
Report doesn’t matter
In January, the Assembly created the ‘Occasional Specialized Commission for Truth, Justice and the Fight against Corruption,’ to investigate the alleged links between the government of Guillermo Lasso and the Albanian mafia (the Encuentro case).
The majority of this 7-member Commission came from political parties critical of Lasso: [Augusto Guamán, AC (Acuerdo Ciudadano), Diego Esparza, PSE (Ecuadorian Socialist Party, formerly PAIS founded by Rafael Correa), Rodrigo Fajardo, ID (Democratic Left), Pedro Zapata, PSE (Ecuadorian Socialist Party, formerly PAIS founded by Rafael Correa), Mireya Pazmiño, MUPP (Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement), Viviana Veloz, UNES (Union for Hope) and Gruber Zambrano, BAN (Bancada del Acuerdo Nacional).
This Commission approved (by a vote of 6-1; Zambrano voted against approving the report) and forwarded its report to the National Assembly on March 1, 2023.
On Saturday, March 4th, 104 members of the Assembly approved the Commission’s report.
That report showed no ties between Lasso and the actions being investigated.
Nonetheless, on Friday, March 10th, four of the legislative blocs (benches) reached a preliminary consensus and have decided to support an impeachment request against President Guillermo Lasso.
“The request for impeachment is firm, it will be presented in mid-March,” said a statement from the PSC, UNES, ID and Pachakutik benches.
According to the parties, the commission’s report on the Encuentro case is not the “same as the request for a political trial.”
In other words, even though the commission found no connections between the crimes committed in the Encuentro case and Lasso, his opponents will move forward with an effort to impeach the President.
What is not clear is what the grounds for prosecuting the President will be.
Of note, on Thursday it was reported that there were correísta ‘advisors’ behind the drafting of the Commission’s report, who are now also helping to draft the impeachment request.
More than 60 people worked on the Commission’s report.
Assemblyman Gruber Zambrano, representative of the Bancada del Acuerdo Nacional (BAN) on the Commission, questioned why such a large number of advisors worked on the report, when it should have been the Assembly staff who developed it.
Zambrano says that each assembly member normally has two advisors; the Commission was made up of seven legislators, which means that there should only have been up to 14 advisors.
The president of the Commission was Viviana Veloz from UNES, the correísmo party. She is also leading the preparation of the impeachment documents against Lasso. Veloz says that President Lasso violated article 147 of the Constitution.
Specifically, Veloz says that Lasso failed in his duties to ‘enforce the laws of the Constitution’ and to ‘safeguard…domestic law and order.’
If the prosecution effort fails to remove Lasso from office, there are also legislators who have talked about declaring the President’s mental incapacity or defending the impeachment process in the streets.
President Lasso could also take the lead on this battle and dissolve the Legislative and advance elections.
The four possible outcomes of this political crisis include:
In Ecuador, impeachment is a complex process that requires several steps and approvals before a president can be removed from office. It begins with a written request submitted by an assemblyman, who must have the support of at least one third of the Legislature, or 46 signatures.
The request must include the charges attributed to the President, with evidence of the crime(s) committed attached. Once the application has been submitted, within three days the president of the Assembly must bring the application to the attention of the Legislative Administration Council (CAL) for verification of the requirements.
If the CAL verifies the request, it is sent to the Constitutional Court for an opinion of admissibility. The Court reviews three aspects, including whether the application has been proposed in accordance with the Constitution, whether the infraction attributed to the President is impeachable, and whether it is appropriate to initiate a political trial.
The three grounds in the Constitution for the official request for a political trial include crimes against state security, extortion, bribery, embezzlement, or illicit enrichment, or genocide, torture, forced disappearance of persons, kidnapping, or homicide for political or conscience reasons.
If the Court issues an opinion of admissibility, the process proceeds to the Oversight Commission, which must present a report recommending impeachment (or not) in plenary.
The President then has ten days to exercise his right to defense, followed by ten days for the performance of tests, and another ten days for the elaboration of the report.
After the report is presented, the president of the Assembly has up to five days to convene the Plenary for the impeachment of the Head of State.
During the Plenary session, the assemblyman who requested the impeachment has two hours for his interpellation (questioning of the accused or witnesses), followed by three hours for the President’s defense.
Each party can redirect for a maximum time of one hour.
Finally, the debate begins in plenary, in which the 137 assembly members can intervene and present their position, for a maximum time of 10 minutes.
The approval of the motion of ‘no confidence in the President’ then requires the vote of the ‘qualified majority’ of the members of the National Assembly, which is 92 votes.
Mireya Pazmiño, one of the rebel legislators from Pachakutik, spoke of the possibility of dismissing him for mental incapacity.
This scenario requires the support of 70 legislators. If the Legislative Administration Council qualifies it, it will have 20 days to request the IESS, the Ministry of Health, and the Federation of Medical Schools, shortlists of professionals to integrate a committee of specialized doctors.
Then, the Plenary will designate three of these medical professionals to present “a detailed report of the permanent physical and mental health” of the President.
The report will be deliberated by the Plenary in a single debate, and, with 92 votes, permanent disability can be declared, and therefore, the cessation of functions. In this case, the presidential term would be completed by Vice President Alfredo Borrero.
Several social organizations have announced that they will support the departure of President Lasso and have asked the Assembly and the Constitutional Court to approve his impeachment. Among them are the Conaie and the Unitary Front of Workers (FUT), who are demanding that the President resign from office.
If a national uprising ends in the abandonment of office or the dismissal of President Lasso, legally, Vice President Alfredo Borrero would also take over.
In any scenario that involves the Legislature, President Lasso can dissolve the Assembly. There are three grounds for this, and only in the first case, as established by the Constitution and the Jurisdictional Guarantees Law, a constitutional opinion is required, which must be approved with the vote of two thirds of the magistrates.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) would have a maximum period of seven days to call legislative and executive elections.
President Lasso maintains that there are no legal arguments to support the accusations against him, and he trusts that the Constitutional Court will stop the process once it reaches their hands.
Why is this happening? It seems ridiculous, like a clown show. President Lasso appears to be fulfilling the duties of his office and leading the country in a positive direction.