A Monday night (18) decree on a 60-day state of emergency in Ecuador cemented President Guillermo Lasso’s offensive against what he called a conspiracy to overthrow his rule.
The main reflection of this measure, taken, according to the president, in response to rising violence in the country and drug trafficking, will be an army on the streets with a public safety order.
But this is still Lasso’s attempt to demonstrate strength in a time of political turmoil for the chief executive, who still faces divisions with parliament. In recent days, the president has sharply criticized the Legislative Assembly’s Board of Directors, the commission that serves as the gateway to passing bills to the National Assembly (the country’s unicameral Congress).
This body refused to consider a package of documents submitted by the president on reforms affecting the labor and tax spheres, as well as on changes in the laws on inheritance and communications.
Pressured by the prison crisis and his recent appearance in the Pandora Papers case – an accusation that he misappropriated, possibly unlawfully, his fortune into tax haven accounts led to a Congressional request for an investigation – Lasso left for the assault in an interview last Friday (15) at the Karondele Palace.
“If they block the laws again, we must go for ‘cross death’. The decree is ready, ”he said, referring to the mechanism provided for in Article 148 of the Constitution, which allows the president of the republic to dissolve his powers. National Assembly.
According to the text, within seven days of the publication of the decree, the National Electoral Council must call elections for all positions in the legislature and for the presidency. Until then, Lasso will rule by decree – “cross death” can also be initiated by parliamentarians. Newly elected will take office only to complete the already started term, and anyone who already holds office today can run again for that post.
The constitution allows the mechanism to be activated only once during the term of office, always during the first three years of rule. The Assembly can only avoid this if it succeeds in reaching an agreement with Lasso in advance or if it votes in favor of the President’s resignation (which requires more than two-thirds of the vote).
“Cross Death” was included in the Constitution in 2008 to facilitate the resolution of political differences between the executive and the legislature – and has never been used to this day. “This is a resource that serves as a life-saving valve when things are very serious. Today it is more difficult to remove only the president or only the Congress, ”says constitutionalist Andres Benevides.
Prior to the election of Rafael Correa in 2007, Ecuador experienced years of intense political instability due to constant clashes between parliament and representatives. In 1997, Abdala Bucaram was dismissed, and as a result, Congress also prevented them from continuing to work in the posts of Jamil Mahuad (1998) and Lucio Gutierrez (2003).
Lasso attributes the joints in the Assembly against him to a “triumvirate of gangsters.” Namely, former President Correa, his main rival; the influential Christian democracy politician Jaime Nebot, who even supported the current president; and indigenous leader Leonidas Isa, protagonist of the 2019 uprisings (in the government of Lenin Moreno).
“Coups d’états no longer happen through tanks and streets, but through Assemblies,” he said. The president also said he was willing to provide evidence that the recent prison riots – one last month in Guayaquil resulted in 118 deaths – and the legislative setbacks were part of a “concerted conspiracy” led by these three characters. …
“Instead of opening the doors for negotiations, for the implementation of politics, Lasso chose to close them, insulting the leaders of important political forces. At some point, it may be too late to return to the conversation, ”says political analyst Simon Pacciano.
Correa responded on Twitter to the CEO’s allegations. “Instead of explaining the Pandora documents, all Lasso does is slander me,” he wrote. “In this ridiculous position, he shows his despair and immorality.” Nebot also replied, “What paranoia are you suffering from? I do not want your government to fail, because that would be a failure for all Ecuadorians. Recover your emotional intelligence. “
In contrast to the tumultuous moment, the President received on Tuesday (19) praise from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who is on a trip that will also include a stop in Colombia.
“We support the call for democracy that you have shared with the people of Ecuador and with our entire hemisphere,” said the head of US diplomacy, who also spoke about the state of emergency. “Sometimes exceptional measures are needed to deal with urgent situations.”
The most acute crisis comes with the relatively positive performance of the president, a former right-wing banker, in his first 100 days in office. During this period, Lasso managed to fulfill his promise to vaccinate against Covid with two doses of 9 million Ecuadorians (population 17.6 million).
Using his negotiating skills and his connections as a businessman overseas, he has purchased various drugs and has already achieved, according to the Our World in Data platform, immunization rates in countries such as the United States. Today, more than 56% of the population is vaccinated with two doses, leaving distant memories of the horrific pictures of the outbreak of a pandemic in Guayaquil, the collapse of hospitals and morgues.
Managing the health crisis has helped lead to its peak in popularity among 73% of Ecuadorians, according to the Cedatos Institute. The figure is more appropriate when you consider that Lasso was in second place in the first round of elections after Andres Arauz, political godfather of Correa, with 52.3% of the vote.
According to the latest poll, the president’s popularity is 63.5%, while Correa, who cannot run because he is accused of corruption, but remains the leader of the political force of the majority in Congress, has 34%.
The ex-president in exile in Belgium is working to reclaim his space. He ditched the Alianza País acronym, which split under his former political sponsor Lenin Moreno, and created the Civil Revolution surrounded by his most loyal followers.
Lasso, for his part, behaves as if he was campaigning to demonstrate his strength and convened a demonstration in Quito for the next few days in support of his administration under the slogan: “No conspiracy triumvirate.”