Instead, he told The Post, he plans to use his final months as one of Latin America’s few remaining right-wing presidents to promote executive orders focused on security, health, education and infrastructure. Among them: a decree, to be announced next week, that will strengthen protections for security forces who use their weapons to defend themselves and others.
Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso dissolves Congress, avoiding impeachment
The 67-year-old former banker led this South American country of 18 million into new territory this week with his declaration Wednesday of a muerte cruzada — roughly, “mutual death.” The constitutional proposal, which he promoted days before the legislature voted to clear him on embezzlement charges, allows him to recall lawmakers and rule by decree for up to six months. Then new elections must be held.
Lasso dismissed the allegations against him as politically motivated; supporters call them bogus. He was the first president of Ecuador to call muerte cruzada, effectively cutting his four-year term in half. It was added to the constitution when Correa was president.
The move was seen by some as a last-minute effort to avoid impeachment, a calculation that the votes were stacked against him in the political trial. But Lasso told The Post he decided on the muerte cruzada a few days ago, and followed through after making sure he had the military’s backing.
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Intelligence authorities said the president had received information that the opposition lacked the votes needed to impeach him. But Lasso, fed up with an opposition-led assembly that succeeded in blocking much of his agenda, decided to dissolve it anyway. He applied the measure, he wrote in his declaration, to address the “grave political crisis” in an assembly whose members were unable to perform their duties properly.
“The main thing is to provide an outlet for this political crisis,” Lasso told The Post. He described the move as an “act of generosity for the country, to shorten the term of the presidency to achieve the common interest of Ecuadorans … and not to see this shameful show of battle between politicians.”
Ecuador’s constitutional court upheld Lasso’s declaration on Thursday, rejecting six lawsuits seeking to block it. The electoral court said it will hold early legislative and presidential elections on August 20, with a potential runoff presidential election in October. Lasso said his party plans to nominate a candidate.
Speaking in a wood-paneled room of the presidential palace after the tumultuous day in Ecuadoran politics in years, the president was remarkably calm and energetic in a jacket, sweater and jeans. He sought to play down concerns that the coming months could bring mass protests, or that his leftist opponents could win the election and punish him.
He said before his impeachment trial opened Tuesday that he would declare a muerte cruzada if he believed lawmakers had the votes to remove him. Leaders of Ecuador’s powerful Indigenous movement, credited with playing a key role in ousting three previous presidents, said they would respond to the move by staging street demonstrations. But on Thursday night, there was no major protest. And Correa, who called Lasso’s move unconstitutional on Wednesday, appeared to be trying to use it on Thursday.
“Did you know? Despite his lies and contradictions, Lasso is right: we are experiencing internal commotion,” the former president said. tweeted Thursday “Let’s go to the elections and sweep them at the polls.”
Simón Pachano, a political scientist at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador, argued that Lasso made the decision primarily to avoid his impeachment. He pushed back on the president’s claims that he was simply not interested in running for office again.
“It looked like he had no chance to win,” Pachano said, and Lasso knew it. “I think he’s kind of a good poker player. He doesn’t show emotion.”
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Elected in 2021, Lasso must serve until 2025, when he is eligible to run for another four-year term.
He said he received support Wednesday from several foreign allies, including the United States. After his declaration, US Ambassador Michael J. Fitzpatrick said the United States “respects the internal and constitutional process of Ecuador” and “will continue to work with the constitutional government, civil society, the private sector and the Ecuadoran people.”
Lasso rejects the idea that Ecuador is the latest Latin American country to experience a democratic apostasy. But it’s hard to ignore some recent incidents in the region — from Brazil, where supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the capital in January in an effort to reverse his election defeat, to El Salvador, where the suspended President Nayib Bukele the basic civil liberties. to crack down on gangs, in Guatemala, which has driven out anti-corruption prosecutors and this week succeeded in closing a investigative newspaper down.
Peru’s Pedro Castillo, who faced impeachment in December, tried to dissolve the country’s legislature and government by decree, but he lacked the constitutional authority or political support needed to succeed. He was removed from office and arrested that day.
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The crises in Peru and Ecuador, although they developed in different contexts, show a breakdown in political representation, said Alberto Vergara, a political scientist at the University of the Pacific in Peru. Both countries suffered dramatic fragmentation among political parties, producing legislatures that proved unwieldy and unpredictable.
But Ecuador’s crisis extends beyond its national assembly. Once seen as relatively peaceful compared to its neighbors, the country now suffers from spiraling drug trafficking and gang violence.
Lasso issued a state of emergency in some parts of the country, sometimes echoing Bukele’s approach in El Salvador. In April, Lasso allowed civilians to own and carry firearms for self-defense.
And next week, he told The Post, he plans to pass an executive order to give “more confidence, peace and security to our law enforcement officers, so they can use their provided weapons to protect innocent citizens.” and also themselves.”
Lasso said his presidency will not be cut easily. But he is convinced that his successors, if faced with a similar political crisis, should not be afraid to do the same.
“I would recommend it to whoever becomes president of Ecuador,” he said.