Ecuador: Between Corruption Scandals and Washington’s Hand: Possible Scenarios for Lasso

By Ociel Alí López on February 28, 2023

Biden and Lasso at the White House

The electoral results of the sectional elections in Ecuador, held on February 5, are still generating an impact. President Guillermo Lasso’s government has ended up so weakened that there are clear concerns that he will not make it to the end of his term, constitutionally scheduled to end in 2025.

This weekend, the powerful indigenous movement, accustomed to putting rulers on the ropes and, in many cases, overthrowing them, has declared a break with the dialogue tables it had with Lasso’s administration and demanded his resignation.

To add to the tension, on Sunday, the indigenous leader Eduardo Mendua, leader of international relations of the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador (CONAIE), was murdered.

The president’s refusal last week to appear before the Ecuadorian Legislative, which is investigating him, indicates that his administration is approaching a radicalization of the struggle with other public powers that have the power to remove him from office or call for an early election.

According to Lasso: “There are State institutions concerned about overthrowing the Government and, even worse, freeing criminals. Yes, I say it loud and clear: there are State institutions concerned about their own interests or whims, which do not act in defense of Ecuadorians”.

These statements, depending on the interpretation made, would be either preventing a forthcoming collision scenario or adding fuel to the fire.

Electoral defeat sets the climate

It should be remembered that Lasso lost last February 5 the eight questions of the referendum that he himself had promoted on issues such as extradition, reduction of parties and assembly members, environment, among others. The political objective of the referendum was to seek oxygen for his administration, which had been fissured since the indigenous uprising last year.

But in addition, his political adversaries had an undeniable electoral achievement in the regional elections of the same day.

The Movimiento Revolución Ciudadana (RC), a political party led by former President Rafael Correa, obtained 9 prefectures (out of 23), including the two most populated provinces of the country (Guayas and Pichincha), and 50 mayoralties (out of 221), obtaining those of Quito and Guayaquil, the latter after 30 years of uninterrupted leadership of the Partido Social Cristiano, which was decimated with only two prefectures at national level.

Even worse was Lasso’s electoral platform, the CREO movement, which did not win any prefecture, meanwhile the Plurinational Unity Movement Pachakutik, which brings together the indigenous sector, won 6 prefectures and 26 mayoralties.

With this result, the Ecuadorian political map has changed in relation to the 2021 presidential elections in which Lasso won. However, the causes of the weakening of his administration are not only limited to the electoral field.

Times of scandal

Lasso, the banker, who retains one of the few right-wing governments in the region, faces a resounding scandal known as ‘the Great Godfather’, in which his brother-in-law, Danilo Carrera, has been denounced as the head of a wide corruption scheme in public companies.

The resignation of Ecuador’s anti-corruption secretary, Luis Verdesoto, came at a time when the president has defended actors involved in the investigation. This resignation could indicate that internal frictions within the government have been unleashed.

In the coming weeks, the multiparty commission of the National Assembly of Ecuador, in charge of studying the case, will present a final report and in this process the future of the government may be decided.

It should be recalled that article 148 of Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution allows for “cross-death”, a figure that serves to call for early presidential and legislative elections.

In the next weeks, the multiparty commission of the National Assembly of Ecuador, in charge of studying the case, will present a final report and in that process the future of the government may be decided.

Most probably, Lasso will prevent at all costs this scenario that would expel him from politics. And, surely, to hinder any institutional exit, he will have the support of Washington, since he is one of the main allies left to President Joe Biden, who received him at the White House just two months ago.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio also visited Lasso last week, despite the president’s convalescence due to a recent operation he had to undergo after a fall.

With the leftward shift in Colombia, Chile and Brazil and the destabilization of Peru, the current Biden administration is particularly interested in seeding itself in Ecuador because of its potential stability, but it appears that is just what seems to be giving way with recent events.

In the midst of so much adversity, the Lasso administration may soon have to decide whether the Ecuadorian government will take the “Lima path” and prepare to repress a hypothetical popular uprising, or whether it will seek to stay on the institutional path, regardless of the decisions made by the Legislative Branch.

Turning attention elsewhere, at the end of last week, the Ecuadorian Prosecutor’s Office asked to prosecute former President Lenín Moreno for bribery, who is also accused of having set up a corruption and bribery scheme.

Is Ecuador consolidating its position as the main US ally in the region?

But the current reality, affected by the crime boom that the right-wing government has not been able to tackle and by the corruption scandals, does not allow to lose focus on the events that are happening day by day and that are overheating the atmosphere.

Between the demand for resignation by the indigenous movement (which occurred over the weekend) and the progress of the investigation of the ‘Great Godfather’ case, Lasso’s administration may be entering a major crisis.

The crumbling situation of his administration is reminiscent of the weakness of right-wing regimes in the region, which have a hard time getting re-elected or perpetuating themselves in government, as happened to the former presidents of Argentina, Mauricio Macri; of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro; and of Chile, Sebastián Piñera. It also reminds Washington that its allies look much less powerful than before.

Source: RT translation, Resumen Latinoamericano – US