Lasso chose "cross-death" and dissolved parliament


Dolores Ochoa / AP

Ecuadorians have shown indifference to the tug-of-war between the country's executives and legislators.

"I have decided to apply Article 148 of the Constitution of the Republic, which gives me the right to dissolve the National Assembly due to a serious political crisis and internal unrest," said Guillermo Lasso, Ecuador's 47th president.

The head of state, cornered by the opposition, took his "last and decisive" step to save his name and honor. He faced impeachment on the dubious charge of embezzlement. To remove Lasso, it was necessary to get 92 votes in the 137-member legislature. And a quorum seemed to be achieved.

There is a constitutional mechanism in Ecuador that allows the head of the executive to dissolve the unicameral legislature and call new elections. It is a "cross-death" where both the president and the National Assembly lose their powers at the same time. Temporarily, of course.

According to the law, the National Election Commission then schedules a special general election within seven days, to be held within 90 days. The newly elected executive and legislature will last until May 2025, when general elections are to be held.

Incidentally, this article was added to the Constitution in 2008 at the initiative of leftist President Rafael Correa (2007-2017), leader in exile of the current "Correistas" opposition. He was accused of corruption, sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison, and is now a fugitive from justice in Belgium.

So far, no president has ever enacted a "cross-death". Guillermo Lasso is the first. Before that, issues of power were solved by the traditional method for Latin American reality of coups d'état. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Ecuador experienced one of the worst decades of its history: between 1996 and 2007 the country saw seven elected presidents, three of whom were overthrown in coups d'état instigated by indigenous protests and with the intervention of the country's parliament.

The attempted assassination of Guillermo Lasso by the parliamentary opposition was the second time since he entered the residence of Ecuador's president, the Carondelet Palace, in 2021.

The 67-year-old former conservative banker Guillermo Lasso became head of state amid a serious socioeconomic crisis exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic. In his election campaign, Lasso promised to create two million jobs and improve health care, strengthen the fight against corruption, crime and drug trafficking, and build 20,000 houses as part of a state housing program.

To promise is not yet to keep one's word. In just one year, some of Lasso's campaign promises in employment, education, housing, and the fight against corruption have been eliminated from government programs or the National Development Plan (NDP). 36% of the urban population and 66% of the rural population live in poverty, deprived of basic health care.

On the eve of the presidential impeachment hearings at the National Assembly, Lasso found himself between a hammer and anvil. He had three options:

  1. The opposition will not reach the 92 votes needed for impeachment. Then Lasso will continue to serve as president until the next general election in 2025.

  2. The opposition gains 92 or more votes, Lasso is impeached and removed from office as president.

  3. "Cross-Death." Lasso resorts to Article 148 of the Constitution, with the result that both the president is intact and most of the leftists in parliament have a legal opportunity to consolidate their power in the upcoming elections.

With the latter option, it was unclear how the street and the indigenous population, the most powerful political force in the country after the left, would behave. Protests by the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE) had almost paralyzed the country in recent years.

But it seems that the president has the support of the armed forces. Nelson Proaño, commander of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces (Comaco), announced that the army and the national police "remain in their unchanged position of absolute respect for the Constitution and laws," and warned that the armed forces would act "firmly" if any violence erupted. A strong contingent of military and police forces blocked access to the National Assembly building in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.

In principle, it was unnecessary. The population was generally indifferent to the authorities' "shindig," and even the parliamentary opposition did not make any noise.

The aloofness of the Ecuadorians raised suspicions that a "fifth column" was involved in the whole affair. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais immediately after the announcement of the "cross death," Lasso recalled that in two years his government had seized 420 tons of drugs, five times more than the two previous governments had seized in 15 years.


And therein lies the mystery of the "fifth column", the services of which in the countries of the developed drug business are used by everyone from the extreme left and the left to the right and the extreme right. Ecuador is no exception.

Drug gangs that had established ties in Colombia and Mexico spread their power across the country, causing a rising tide of violence. By the end of 2022, the number of intentional crimes had almost doubled, from nearly 2,500 cases to more than 4,200 compared to 2021.

The already relative tranquility of the "Equator Country" was disrupted. Meanwhile, the Lasso government intended to classify criminal gangs as terrorist organizations, which would allow the security forces to declare a tough war on drug traffickers.

And it would have had the support of Ecuadorians, who were "fed up" with the rise in kidnapping, extortion, and petty crime. But fed parliamentarians and a bribed press convinced them that the Lasso government was doing nothing to stop crime and drug addiction. The contrived pretext for impeaching the president, as happens in such cases, became negotium desiderabile (desirable business).

"Ecuador's biggest problem is that the political elite is consumed by its conflicts and petty interests," said Felipe Burbano, director of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Quito. "The problem of violence is exacerbated by the weakness of the state and government," he added.

"What will you do as president in the coming months?" – El Pais asked President Guillermo Lasso.

"Ruling Ecuador with a special focus on four areas: citizen security, health care, education and infrastructure, trying to do in six months what we planned to do in two years."

Who would believe that they could do in six months what they have not done in two years? The ghost of ungovernability threatens Ecuador again.