As the start the third week of the impeachment process initiated by the National Assembly begins, discussions about disregarding the Constitutional Court’s decision cast doubt on the entire process.
After the Constitutional Court deemed the impeachment process against President Guillermo Lasso admissible, the National Assembly regained control of the process.
However, as the process has continued, some members of the National Assembly have seemingly switched sides while others suggested that the Constitutional Court’s rulings should only be used as a guideline, rather than a requirement for moving forward with a political trial.
The institution has just over a month to resolve the accusations against the president, who is facing charges of embezzlement related to a contract from the public company Flopec.
The Oversight Committee of the Assembly will be responsible for handling the procedure, which involves receiving evidence and defenses and writing a report that recommends whether or not Lasso should be impeached in plenary.
To recap, the highlights of what has occurred so far in the impeachment process include the admissibility ruling by the Constitutional Court, the change in stance by some members of the National Assembly, and the impending involvement of the Oversight Committee in the procedure.
Below are the highlights of what has happened so far and what can be expected in the coming weeks.
CAL received the opinion of the Court
On March 30, 2023, Virgilio Saquicela, the President of the Assembly, summoned the members of the Legislative Administration Council (CAL) to convene on March 31 at 9:30 am. The purpose of the meeting was to receive the opinion of the Constitutional Court. The members of the CAL were required to decide whether to forward the trial file and the opinion to the Oversight Commission to initiate the process of preparing the impeachment trial of the President.
Following the favorable ruling of the Constitutional Court, Saquicela addressed the Assembly. He stated that the Assembly respects the Constitution and the law without reservation and that the opinion confirms that the Assembly has acted in accordance with the constitutional and legal norms. Saquicela also expressed that the mechanisms of political control to hold the President accountable for their actions constitute a legitimate procedure.
The President of the Assembly announced that the Plenary would resolve the trial, which could result in the censorship and dismissal of Lasso, with utmost responsibility. He emphasized that the most sacred interests of the people and the Homeland would be guaranteed.
The CAL passes the procedure to Inspection
On March 31, 2023, the CAL approved the passage of the impeachment process against President Guillermo Lasso to the Oversight Commission. The resolution received six votes in favor and one against, with pro-government assembly member Nathaly Arias being the only dissenting voice. Additionally, the CAL directed the Oversight Commission to halt any ongoing processes or political trials that it has pending. The Commission is expected to convene in the coming days to establish a timeline and discuss the matter further.
Legislator summons the Commission
The Oversight Commission of the Assembly was summoned to convene on Monday, April 3 at 2:00 p.m. to consider the request for impeachment against President Guillermo Lasso.
Fernando Villavicencio, the president of the Commission, stated, “In accordance with the provisions of the CAL and subject to the provisions of the Organic Law of the Legislative Function, I have called the session.”
The Legislative Administration Council (CAL) resolution mandates that this commission give immediate consideration to the case.
The commission has a maximum of 10 days to receive the respective charges and defense evidence from the interpellants and the President.
It may also allow for an additional 10 days for the performance of tests.
The commission must then prepare and present a reasoned report within 10 days, recommending or not recommending the impeachment of Lasso.
The process begins
On April 3, 2023, the Oversight Commission was installed to oversee the impeachment trial of President Guillermo Lasso. The commission’s work has already been met with criticism from both the ruling party and the opposition.
Fernando Villavicencio, the commission’s president, who identifies as independent, stated that he will not permit issues related to the two grounds for bribery that the Constitutional Court excluded to be introduced.
He declared, “There is no room here to talk about the Albanian mafia, Leonardo Cortázar, or Ítalo Cedeño.” Villavicencio emphasized that the only admissible evidence, according to the Constitutional Court, is that which relates to the contracts with Amazonas Tanker.
After reviewing the evidence, the commission will notify President Lasso and the complainants of the procedure. Both parties will have ten days to present their arguments. The commission members must now establish a work schedule in accordance with the terms outlined in the Legislative Function Law. The Inspection’s report should be completed in approximately 30 days.
Correístas challenge Villavicencio authority
On April 4, 2023, Fernando Villavicencio, the president of the Oversight Commission, requested that assembly members proposing an impeachment trial against Lasso exclude themselves from considering facts, inferences, and evidence related to bribery accusations, which the Constitutional Court had rejected.
However, three of the five impeachment applicants, Viviana Veloz, Mireya Pazmiño, and Pedro Zapata, disagreed and sent an official letter on April 5, 2023, insisting that this provision was “inadmissible.”
They argued that the decision was made only by Villavicencio and not by the Oversight Commission, and that there was no possibility for restrictions or delimitations to be established on the supporting documentation of the impeachment trial. They requested Villavicencio to notify both Lasso and the proponents simultaneously with the start of the impeachment process.
They also argued that the Constitutional Court’s opinion was not a legal requirement over the Assembly, and that they could still pursue impeachment based on the grounds defined as inadmissible by the Court.
The period of 10 days begins
On April 6, 2023, in the afternoon, the Oversight Commission of the National Assembly informed the President of the Republic, Guillermo Lasso, about the commencement of his impeachment trial.
This initiated a 10-day period for the President to defend himself and respond to the charges. Additionally, the proponents of the trial can present any evidence they believe supports their case during this period.
A call for attention from CAL
The Legislative Administration Council (CAL) convened on April 7th to evaluate the Oversight Commission’s process. The lawmakers voted in favor of reprimanding Fernando Villavicencio, the President of the table, and demanded that he immediately apply the appropriate regulations for the impeachment procedure of the President of the Republic.
The resolution also insisted that he “refrain from using foreign ordinary procedural regulations not provided for in parliamentary procedures and from obstructing, delaying, or interfering with due process within the established procedure. The Legislative Technique Unit and the General Coordination of Legal Advice were also instructed to jointly oversee the impeachment proceedings.
However, Nathalie Arias objected, saying that the resolution lacked support since the process had already commenced.
Villavicencio asks the Court to follow up on the opinion
On Saturday, April 9th, Fernando Villavicencio, the president of the Oversight Commission of the Assembly, announced that he had requested the Constitutional Court to follow up on a ruling which had partially upheld the impeachment of President Guillermo Lasso.
Villavicencio had sent a letter to the head of the Court, Alí Lozada, on Friday, April 7th, 2023, in which he stated that the proponents of the impeachment were attempting to disregard the Court’s ruling. The ruling had admitted the interpellation of Lasso for alleged embezzlement but rejected other charges, such as bribery.
The official letter requested the Court’s authority to monitor and control the opinion of partial admissibility for the alleged crime of embezzlement. The letter further stated that it was necessary to clearly establish to the Assembly that the political trial only corresponded to the identified crime of embezzlement.