Commission’s Report Seen as Preamble to Possible Political Trial, but Not Binding
The ‘Occasional Specialized Commission for Truth, Justice and the Fight against Corruption,’ created in January 2023 to investigate the alleged links between the government of Guillermo Lasso and the Albanian mafia (the Encuentro case), approved and forwarded its report to the National Assembly on March 1, 2023.
On March 5, 2023, the Plenary of the National Assembly approved the commission’s report.
This report recommends a political trial against President Guillermo Lasso for crimes against state security for allegedly taking a blind eye (or the legal term of ‘omission’) to the crimes of bribery, embezzlement, and concussion.
The approval of this report is a preamble to a possible impeachment of President Lasso, though it is not binding.
Approval of the Report
The Plenary session, which lasted for more than six hours, with 41 legislators making statements. In the end, there were 104 votes in favor of approving the report from the Union for Hope (UNES), Christian Social Party (PSC), Pachakutik, Democratic Left (ID), and independent legislators. There were 18 votes against, three abstentions, and 12 absences.
Assembly member Viviana Veloz proposed the approval of the report and welcomed changes suggested by assembly members Patricia Nuñez (UNES) and Esteban Torres (PSC). As a result, the approved report maintains that Lasso can be politically prosecuted for the aforementioned crimes.
Veloz announced that during the week of March 6th to the 12th, the impeachment request will be presented. However, it is unclear which benches will do so.
Bench Statements on the Approval of the Report
During the Plenary session, representatives from various benches spoke about the report’s approval.
Viviana Veloz from the Union for Hope (UNES) spoke first, stating that President Lasso violated article 147 of the Constitution. She urged her fellow legislators not to ‘justify their votes to save an inoperative official’ and called for the approval of the report.
Juan Fernando Flores, a pro-government assemblyman from the Bancada del Acuerdo Nacional
(BAN), criticized the report, stating that its evidence included memes. He called for an end to the nonsense and questioned whether those supporting the report have the will and capacity to present a political trial.
Esteban Torres from the Social Christian Party (PSC) argued that not preventing a crime from being committed is an omission, as established in the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code (COIP). He criticized the government’s failure to act against a dangerous group of people, friends, and mafiosi, despite having knowledge about their activities.
Johanna Moreira from the Democratic Left (ID) criticized the wording of the report, stating that it left out critical elements.
Salvador Quishpe from Pachakutik maintained that the impeachment trial against Lasso was due to alleged embezzlement. He argued that the President and his relatives in Flopec and EMCO had committed the crime of embezzlement, causing economic damage to the Ecuadorian state.
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.
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.
President Guillermo Lasso and Minister of Government Henry Cucalón have criticized the report approved by the National Assembly.
President Lasso stated on Twitter that the report lacked logical, evidentiary, and legal support. However, he also said that his administration would cooperate with the Prosecutor’s Office’s requirements to clarify any doubts of his innocence.
Minister Cucalón also expressed his dissatisfaction with the report, stating that the Plenary of the National Assembly failed the country by accepting an embarrassing report from the Occasional Commission. He also criticized the grounds on which the report was drafted and approved in the Assembly, questioning its legal validity and binding nature.
Cucalón described the report as an “arrangement of patches and rectifications,” which left out characters who should be investigated. He also stated that attempting to fabricate a fable to try to set up a political trial against the President was not an act of control, but of evident destabilization.
The Minister criticized the Assembly’s actions, saying that “what is built on falsehoods falls apart.”
He concluded by saying that these “unfortunate farces” would not distract the work of the Government.