On Friday night, June 25, 2022, on the 13th day of the national strike, the assembly members debated the ‘crusade death’ (or ‘cross death’), a mechanism proposed by the Unión por la Esperanza (UNES) to remove President Lasso. UNES is considered the party of ‘correismo.’
In the virtual session, there were 135 assembly members —of 137, in total.
The debate began at 6 pm on Saturday and was suspended at 2 am, after more than 8 hours of debate. Virgilio Saquicela, president of the Assembly, said that there were at least 40 other requests to speak and that since everyone has the right to speak, he suspended the session until 4 p.m., yesterday, Sunday June 26th.
Regardless of when the speakers are done, 72 hours —3 days— must pass from the end of the debate for the plenary to vote on whether to apply this constitutional mechanism that allows the legislature to dismiss the President of the Republic from his functions.
If the cross death is approved, Lasso would be removed, and the elections would be brought forward.
The intervention of Virgilio Saquicela
Saturday’s session began with a short intervention by the President of the Assembly, Virigio Saquicela. In the few minutes that he spoke, Saquicela informed the legislators that he had called for a dialogue with the government and Conaie, and that he had a positive response.
Saquicela said that this call for dialogue was attended by Leonidas Iza, president of Conaie, the ministers of Government and Foreign Affairs (Francisco Jiménez and Juan Carlos Holguín), the president of the CNE (Diana Atamaint) and representatives of the Transparency Function (which includes the Citizen Participation Council). “Dialogue is the way,” said Saquicela. “I think this road is going to prosper,” he said.
In the afternoon, hours before this session began, Saquicela told the media that although “there has been no commitment,” Conaie decided that “it will consult its bases on the designation of a commission to start this dialogue.”
Lasso’s reply to UNES actions
The Organic Law of the Legislative Function says that in the session in which the crossed death is debated, the President can exercise his right to defense before the Legislative.
In this case, Lasso sent Fabián Pozo, Legal Secretary of the Presidency, on his behalf. Pozo read a letter from Lasso refuting UNES’s request.
“Today there is peace in Ecuador. The roads are reopened,” Lasso said. “Together we are going to heal the wounds that the enemies of Ecuador have forced,” Pozo read.
Next, he referred to what he considered the motivation for the request made by UNES. He said that “the enemies of Ecuador” have taken over and infiltrated the “legitimate causes of the peoples and nationalities for their rogue ends” and that in this way, he said, “they intend to return to power through chaos.”
Pozo read on, and Lasso argued that the legal requirements for the request contemplated in article 130 number 2 of the Constitution, which allows the removal of the president by the Assembly, have not been met. According to Lasso, because “number 2 uses the copulative conjunction AND,” which would force the Assembly to verify that both conditions, the serious political crisis and the internal commotion, converge.
Lasso called those who have wanted to stop him “coup plotters,” and said that if the needs of rural communities and peoples and nationalities were not addressed, “the coup plotters” would once again use them to destabilize the country. He said that the UNES assembly members have “manufactured a crisis,” and furthermore, “they invent chaos, they search, they fish in chaos, they are chaos.”
“None [causal] is met or proven,” said Lasso in the voice of Pozo. “Ultimately, it is through a 5-paragraph letter from UNES” that this coalition seeks to “destabilize democracy,” said Lasso. “It is an act of absolute irresponsibility with the country,” he said, because, according to him, the petitioners have not informed the public of “the reasons for the activation” of the constitutional removal mechanism.
Pozo then read aloud that the state of emergency decree that governed 6 provinces was repealed.
The Assembly then received in citizens who wanted to express themselves on the motion that was being discussed.
Several human rights activists participated who denounced state repression in the twelve days that the strike has lasted. A paramedic even said that there were children with shot wounds. A representative of the Federation of University Representatives of Ecuador (FEUE) also spoke, who said that his organization would respect the decision of the legislature in this process.
After the activists’ presentations, the discussion on the removal of President Lasso continued with the statements of the assembly members.
Crusader Death explained
The request to call for crusade death (or cross death) through numeral 2 of article 130 of the Constitution was presented by the correísta bench UNES, on the 12th day of the national strike. Article 130 of the Constitution empowers the Assembly to remove the President of the Republic —in this case, Guillermo Lasso— for two reasons:
- For assuming functions that are not constitutionally his responsibility, prior favorable opinion of the Constitutional Court.
- Due to serious political crisis and internal commotion.
In this case, the aim was to remove President Lasso due to the “serious political crisis and internal commotion” that the country is experiencing due to the national strike.
The crossed death is the colloquial name for the legal tool of mutual institutional annulment between two functions of the State: the Executive and the Legislative.
It was introduced in Ecuador in the 2008 Constitution, led by Rafael Correa. It was conceptualized as a “legal tool that forces a relationship of collaboration and mandatory complementarity between the Executive and Legislative,” says Mónica Banegas, an expert on constitutional law.
“Cross death is a constitutional figure and not for that reason it is democratic,” added Mauricio Alarcón, a constitutional lawyer. According to Alarcón, this figure can be used by both the president and the National Assembly.
Also, once it is put into motion, elections of both functions must be called, which is why it is called cross-death.
If the Assembly dismisses the President, the Vice President remains in charge of the Executive until new elections are held. These new elections are called in advance by the National Electoral Council and must take place within ninety days after the call is made.
“It is like a kind of impeachment but without major consequences, since the dismissed president can run again for president,” explains Alarcón. In a political trial, on the other hand, the official who is censored and dismissed loses his political rights and would not be able to run again.
If the President dissolves the National Assembly, he “kills” the legislative power and assumes legislative powers. This situation, according to Alarcón, is problematic because “there would be no independence of functions.”
The crossed death can be requested by the Assembly only once during the legislative period. In other words, not again until May 24, 2025 —which is when Lasso’s presidency also ends.