Ecuador’s Vice Minister of Government Esteban Torres claimed on Thursday that opposition lawmakers are seeking to impeach President Daniel Noboa due to alleged “mental incapacity.”

Noboa, 36, was elected president in October after successfully running as an outsider candidate, defeating establishment socialist candidate Luisa González and becoming the nation’s youngest elected president ever when he was 35 years old.

The election was marred by widespread violence – most prominently the assassination of anti-China and anti-socialist candidate Fernando Villavicencio, a journalist who had extensively helped expose a vast graft network led by former Ecuadorian socialist and pro-China president Rafael Correa. Correa has been living in exile in Belgium since 2018; Villavicencio’s work was instrumental in Correa’s conviction and eight-year in absentia prison sentence for corruption in 2020.

Presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio waves an Ecuador national flag during a campaign event at a school minutes before he was shot to death outside the same school in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023 (API via AP)

Noboa’s predecessor, conservative former President Guillermo Lasso, was the target of 14 impeachment attempts by socialist lawmakers after he took office in 2021. The continued impeachment attempts made it impossible for Lasso to govern, he said at the time.

The incessant impeachments prompted Lasso to utilize an obscure constitutional provision commonly known as “mutually assured death” in May 2023 that dissolved the legislative branch and allowed Lasso to rule by decree for six months, leading to the election of a new president and members of the National Assembly in October. The “mutually assured death” provision was introduced to the nation’s constitution in 2008 during Correa’s socialist government but had never been used in the past.

While Lasso was eligible to run in October’s election, he ultimately chose not to. Noboa was elected to conclude the remainder of Lasso’s term, which was originally slated to end in May 2025. Noboa has previously confirmed he is willing to run for reelection in 2025.

Vice Minister Torres issued the warning of the National Assembly’s impeachment plans against Noboa in a social media post on Thursday, claiming that there are legislative members “who are already airing medical reports with any nonsense just to hit Noboa and the Government.”

“President Noboa’s popularity and voting intention numbers are so frightening to the anti-government political camp in the [National] Assembly, that now they have even planned to disqualify him politically, inventing and reediting the ‘old reliable’ of mental incapacity,” Torres’ message reads.

Torres’ “old reliable” statements are a reference to former Ecuadorian President Abdalá Bucaram, who was impeached by the Ecuadorian Congress in 1997 on grounds of “mental incapacity.”

Torres claimed that the opposition lawmakers “no longer know what else to do” to remove Noboa from power.

“They [the opposition] have not been able to position a single candidate a few months before the election and that is why now they are radicalizing the ‘all against Noboa,'” Torres continued. “Even the Citizen Revolution [former socialist President Correa’s party] that has 20 percent [support] is losing its political sense, let alone the rest of the tents that have marginal and millimetric electoral options.”

Ecuadorian lawmaker Valentina Centeno of the ruling National Democratic Action Alliance (ADN) party echoed Torres’ warnings and accused the National Assembly of trying to repeat the practices of the previous Congress by seeking to impeach Noboa by declaring him mentally unfit to rule.

“The old politicians and the do-nothings that are inside the Assembly plenary want to take the debate and discussion towards a supposed mental disability of President Daniel Noboa. That is to say, they want to declare him insane,” Centeno told reporters.

The first Vice President of Ecuador’s National Assembly Viviana Veloz, who is part of former President Correa’s socialist Citizen Revolution party, denied Centeno’s accusations and claimed that the Ecuadoran legislature does not seek to declare President Noboa “crazy.”

“There is no such action of wanting to declare a mental disability as they are now trying to make the Ecuadorian population believe,” Veloz stressed, claiming that the statements are “one of the many distractions that the Government invents every week so that citizens stop talking about important issues, such as insecurity, lack of medicines.”

Veloz, who was at the forefront of the impeachment attempts against former President Lasso, stated that the Legislative Administration Commission will be consulted on the “appropriateness of a disciplinary sanction against Centeno.”

The Ecuadorian National Assembly issued a statement on Thursday condemning “unfortunate statements” allegedly issued by Noboa and published in an article by the New Yorker this week on some of Latin America’s heads of state.

In the New Yorker article, journalist Jon Lee Anderson quoted Noboa calling ex-terrorist Colombian President Gustavo Petro a “leftist snob” and dismissing Argentine President Javier Milei: “He hasn’t achieved anything since he became President. He seems full of himself—which is very Argentine, actually.”

Anderson stated that some of Noboa’s advisors “speculated to me that Noboa is on the autism spectrum.”

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld claimed on Wednesday that the New Yorker article sought to “cause harm” and asserted that the quotes attributed to Noboa in it “have undoubtedly been taken out of context.”

Sommerfeld stated in an interview with the local Radio Centro that she has spoken with several foreign ministers in the region and “it was understood that, without a doubt, the objective of the article was to cause damage and break relations that at the moment are very good with the countries that are mentioned there.”

The General Secretary of Ecuador’s National Assembly Alejandro Muñoz stated on social media that the legislative resolution condemning Noboa and the New Yorker article “do not contemplate any declaration of mental incapacity.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.