Lasso impeachment vote

Ecuador's Congress gets green light to vote on Lasso's impeachment, but will it pass?

Ecuador is a country where politics and governance have often been fraught with controversy and turmoil. In 2021, Guillermo Lasso, a right-wing politician, was elected as the President of Ecuador, defeating Andrés Arauz, a leftist candidate who had the backing of the previous president, Rafael Correa.

Lasso’s victory was hailed as a triumph for democracy and free-market capitalism, as he had campaigned on a platform of economic liberalisation and reducing government intervention in the economy. However, his tenure as president has been marked by a series of challenges and controversies, including widespread protests by indigenous groups and socialists, who have accused him of pursuing policies that favour the wealthy and powerful.

Most recently, Ecuador has entered a new political crisis after the Constitutional Court gave Congress the green light to launch an impeachment process against President Lasso. The president and former banker, in office since 2021, stands accused of embezzlement and overlooking corrupt practices in his own cabinet.

A managing partner at a renowned law firm in Quito, gave us the local perspective, “While the political situation in Ecuador is not as bad as the media makes it out to be, it is still challenging. Lasso is running out of resources, in particular, he is running out of ministers as people are afraid to serve in his government due to the potential impeachment. Key figures such as Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguín have resigned and it is increasingly difficult for the government to find new people.”

“While the political situation in Ecuador is not as bad as the media makes it out to be, it is still challenging.”

 Managing Partner at renowned law firm, Ecuador

Lasso rejected the Constitutional Court’s ruling and said that it had no legal basis to allow the impeachment process, which requires a two-thirds majority, to proceed. Notably, the Congress is controlled by the leftist opposition, who maintain their allegiance to former president Rafael Correa, and indigenous groups which have been staging protests against the government for months. However, the consensus view in local media on both sides of the political debate think the required majority will not be met.

The managing partner explained, “Legally, if he gets desperate enough, Lasso could move to dissolve the National Assembly but the political risk of that is too high. Furthermore, he has already spoken to several news outlets and the diplomatic court and he has agreed to abide by whatever the organ passes. Meanwhile, his lawyers are doing everything they can before the National Assembly to avoid the trial. While in Ecuador it is hard to predict what is going to happen at a political trial, it seems that right now the National Assembly will not have enough votes to take him to trial. This would require 92 votes and even opposition news outlets are suggesting there are only 78 votes against him.”

“While in Ecuador it is hard to predict what is going to happen at a political trial, it seems that right now the National Assembly will not have enough votes to take [Lasso] to trial.”

Managing Partner at renowned law firm, Ecuador

Amid the ongoing impeachment process, Lasso is struggling to control a surge of violence in the country. Last week, the government announced the launch of a special military operation to curb crime and violence in Ecuador. Some level of protest might also be expected, according to the managing partner, “We are not expecting major uprisings as of now however, the indigenous groups can always muster enough people in 48 hours to effectively put Quito and nearby cities into lockdown. If Lasso escapes impeachment, these groups will not take the result well and we may see some protests.”

Meanwhile, this political turmoil is discouraging international companies and investors who are exclusively investing only what they are legally obliged to. In particular, the country’s mining industry has been in crisis since June 2022 as the government has failed to reach an agreement with indigenous communities over environmental consultations. Consequently, almost 100 environmental licences remain on hold, hindering operations in the country.

“The stress the political turmoil has brought on Ecuador’s financial markets is significant and the country’s risk rating has been going up.”

Managing Partner at renowned law firm, Ecuador

The managing partner saw the same behaviour from his multinational clients, “The stress the political turmoil has brought on Ecuador’s financial markets is significant and the country’s risk rating has been going up. International investors are worried about the outcome of the trial so we have not seen any major new investments in the past few days. There have been a lot of investment contracts signed but the projects are on hold. We hope that these will move forward following the outcome of the trial, depending on the result obviously.”

Whatever the outcome of Lasso’s political trial, his future at the helm of the government looks bleak and his chances of re-election are diminishing rapidly.

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