This story originally appeared in Peoples Dispatch on May 17, 2023. It is shared here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-SA) license.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, on Wednesday, May 17, at 7 am, signed a presidential decree to activate the “cross-death” constitutional tool and dissolved the National Assembly, the country’s unicameral parliament. The decision came a day after the legislature began an impeachment hearing against Lasso, who stands accused of the crime of embezzlement of public funds. With this decision, the impeachment process against Lasso was canceled, which could have removed him from office.
In a televised address to the nation, Lasso explained that he had applied article 148 of the Constitution that grants him the power to dissolve the National Assembly and request the National Electoral Council (CNE) to call for new presidential and legislative elections. He argued that “it is the best possible decision to give a constitutional solution to the serious political crisis and internal commotion that Ecuador is enduring. This is a democratic action, because it returns to the Ecuadorian people the power to decide their future in the next elections.”
Lasso accused the opposition dominated congress of “focusing all its efforts on destabilizing his government.” “Citizens, I appear before you to tell you that it is not possible to move forward, solve the problems of Ecuadorian families, face the deep challenges of insecurity and terrorism with an Assembly that has as its political project the destabilization of the government, of democracy and of the State,” said Lasso.
“There is uncertainty about the capacity of the State bodies to fulfill their functions properly and meet the needs of citizens due to the confrontation that has occurred from the Legislative power towards the Executive power from the beginning of my administration,” he added.
The cross-death mechanism establishes that after the dissolution of parliament, the incumbent president can govern for up to six months by decree with the control of the Constitutional Court. It also establishes that the CNE must call general elections in a maximum period of 90 days to elect both the president and assembly members. The winners of these elections will complete the current presidential and legislative term that ends in May 2025.
Lasso had previously warned he would dissolve the congress and force early general elections prior to the day of his political trial. Nevertheless, during the debate on the impeachment motion in the plenary on Tuesday, May 16, the majority of legislators indicated that they are nor afraid of the cross death.
Lasso is accused of corruption and misappropriation of public funds, related to a contract signed between the public oil transportation company Ecuadorian Oil Fleet (FLOPEC) and the private Amazonas Tanker Pool company.
The motion, presented by congresswoman Viviana Veloz of the left-wing opposition Union for Hope alliance (UNES) bench, detailed that there was evidence of “the diversion or distraction of the funds generated annually by these pools of companies with which EP-FLOPEC had a contractual relationship in the transportation of crude oil.” It also argued that Lasso “defined the continuation of oil transportation contracts in favor of third parties, conscious that they represented a loss for the state.”
For his part, Lasso denied the accusations, arguing that the contract was signed under the previous administration of former President Lenín Moreno in 2018, and that under his administration profitable changes were made to the contract based on advice from the Comptroller General’s Office.
Ninety-two votes from the 137-member assembly were needed to remove Lasso, which was highly likely. Lawmakers from parliamentary groups such as UNES, the Social Christian Party (PSC), the Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement, the Democratic Left (ID) and some independents had expressed themselves in favor of prosecuting Lasso.
Former progressive president and leader of the UNES, Rafael Correa, alleged that Lasso’s decision was illegal, but pointed out that it is a great opportunity to recover the country.
“What Lasso has done is illegal. Obviously, there is no “internal commotion.” He just couldn’t buy enough parliamentarians to save himself. In any case, it is a great opportunity to get rid of Lasso, his government and his rented assembly members, and recover the Homeland.” tweeted Correa.