Ecuador: President Dissolves Congress to Rule by Decree, Citing Left’s ‘Irrational’ Impeachment Attempts

Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso speaks during his political trial at the National

Conservative President of Ecuador Guillermo Lasso announced on Wednesday morning that he would dissolve the National Assembly, the country’s federal legislative body, in response to over a year of impeachment attempts against himself and his cabinet members.

In Ecuador, Article 148 of the national constitution allows the president to make this move, giving him six months to rule by decree until the country holds elections and fills every seat in Congress. Only an executive order is necessary to enact this provision in most cases.

Article 148 was added to the constitution in 2008, under radical leftist authoritarian President Rafael Correa, and has never been used before in its history.

Correa, in exile in Belgium following the issuance of an arrest warrant against him for criminal actions as president, condemned Lasso’s use of the constitutional amendment he spearheaded as “illegal” on Wednesday.

The Ecuadorian constitution allows such a move when the president, “by his judgment,” deems that the National Assembly has either “abrogated its functions” or the country has fallen into “a grave political crisis or internal unrest.” Ecuadorians refer to this provision as muerte cruzada, which literally translates to “crossed death” but more accurately translates roughly to “mutually assured destruction.”

Lasso’s move follows a similar attempt to dissolve the Congress of Peru in December by communist former President Pedro Castillo — who, at the time, faced a third impeachment attempt. Peru has no such constitutional provision and immediately arrested Castillo for an attempted coup (Peruvians refer to the president dissolving the Congress as an autogolpe, or “self-coup”). Given the unconstitutionality of Castillo’s measure, Peruvian courts sentenced him to a year and a half in “preventive” prison following his attempted dissolution.

Lasso’s declaration on Wednesday automatically cancels all impeachment proceedings against him and invalidates the terms of all lawmakers. National Assembly workers anonymously confirmed to Ecuadorian media on Wednesday morning that security prevented them from entering their former workplaces. Any lawmaker attempting to return to work could face charges of contempt against a constitutional measure.

In a speech on Wednesday morning, Lasso argued that the Ecuadorian left’s campaign to impeach him and several of his cabinet members had created a political crisis, making it impossible for his administration to function.

“We must advance towards a solution that offers hope to Ecuadorian families for a future of wellbeing and tranquility, a solution that also responds to the majority’s aspirations of ending an irrational and useless confrontation,” Lasso said. “I have the obligation to give a response to the political crisis that is trampling Ecuador.”

Lasso accused the left-wing opposition of working to “depose the democratically elected government,” saying:

From the beginning of my term, on four occasions, a sector of national politics has tried to depose the democratically elected government. In June 2022, when the state was just starting to come out of the lockdowns provoked by the [coronavirus] pandemic…violent [riots] paralyzed Ecuador. This paralysis was used as a pretext by the opposition in the National Assembly to attempt the removal of the president of the republic, claiming internal unrest.

“They [the opposition] have activated 14 political trials [impeachments] to generate instability in the cabinet and hinder the work of the government,” Lasso accused. “It is unacceptable that a great part of the time of the ministers and their team be dedicated to resisting the political harassment of the National Assembly instead of working towards solving the problems of Ecuadorian families.”

Lasso addressed the latest allegations against him of embezzlement at Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana (FLOPEC), an Ecuadorian oil company, noting that the suspicious transactions at these companies occurred three years before Lasso became president and insisting he had no involvement in the alleged corruption.

“The accusers have become obsessed with ending my government, given impulse by a superhuman resentment. Despite this, they have been incapable of finding any proof against me because there isn’t anything to find. Absolutely nothing,” Lasso asserted.

The past week was turbulent in the National Assembly, as the pro-Correa left attempted to, once again, gather the votes to oust Lasso. According to the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo, the left did not appear to have the votes to impeach as of Tuesday, largely due to distrust on the part of smaller third parties. Eleven members of one of those parties, the left-wing Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement – New Country, issued a statement on Tuesday refusing to join the Correistas in impeaching Lasso on the grounds that they would “not be responsible for the return of Ecuador to an arrogant and authoritarian dictatorship.”

Correa’s tenure was marked by extreme censorship of the press, the installation of a totalitarian Chinese surveillance system, and support for Latin America’s violent communist/socialist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.

The National Assembly impeachment debate was tumultuous, featuring multiple breakdowns in parliamentary order and at least one lawmaker apparently playing Candy Crush during the proceedings.

Lasso followed the announcement on Wednesday with an order to the National Electoral Council (CNE) to begin the process of organizing both presidential and legislative elections.

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