Ecuador: Conservative president targeted for impeachment by political opponents
Lasso, 67, is being accused of knowing about and actively disregarding an embezzlement scheme between the state-owned oil transport company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana and the private company Amazonas Tankers
May 17, 2023 9:00am
Updated: May 17, 2023 9:19am
The Ecuadorian National Assembly on Tuesday began an impeachment hearing against conservative President Guillermo Lasso, who is being accused of corruption after allegedly knowing about an embezzlement scheme.
Lasso, 67, known as a free market advocate is being accused by some of his political opponents for knowing about and actively disregarding an embezzlement scheme between the state-owned oil transport company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana and the private company Amazonas Tankers. His opponents claim that the scheme cost the state millions in losses and signals corruption within Lasso’s administration.
During the hearing on Tuesday, Lasso claimed that he was not guilty of the crimes he was being accused of. In particular, he has claimed that the contract between the two companies was signed three years before he took office, in 2018.
“There is no evidence, nor relevant testimonies,” he said. “Rather, all there is information that proves my total, evident and unquestionable innocence.”
"They've created a fictitious situation that doesn't solve the problems of the country or anyone else," Lasso added. "The same rancor they profess against me is the greatest proof of my innocence."
His opponents, however, claims that Lasso did nothing despite knowing about the irregularities in the contract, according to opposition lawmaker Viviana Veloz.
"That's why he should be censured and removed, this is the constitutional truth and the political truth that many are trying to hide from the Ecuadorean people," said Veloz. "There is more than enough proof of acts of corruption at Flopec."
Lasso could potentially be removed from his post due to the trial if 92 out of the 137 assembly members vote to do so.
Experts, however, have speculated that such a move could lead to a showdown between the assembly and the president, who could invoke a special constitutional clause. Known as “muerte cruzada” or “two-way death,” the clause allows Lasso to dissolve the legislature and end his presidency at the same time. Such a measure has never been taken in the country’s history.
"That option has always been under consideration and it's available, and the decision is up to the president," Juan Pablo Ortiz, legal secretary of the presidency, told local media outlets.