Ecuador Leader Takes Drastic Step to Stay in Power

Guillermo Lasso deploys 'mutual death' mechanism
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2023 4:09 PM CDT
Ecuador Leader Takes Drastic Step to Stay in Power
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso speaks at the National Assembly in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, May 16, 2023.   (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso took a drastic step to stay in power Wednesday—he dissolved the country's legislature before it could vote to impeach him. Under a constitutional measure known as the muerte crazada, or "mutual death," Lasso disbanded the opposition-controlled National Assembly effective immediately, the Washington Post reports. Lasso is now required to hold an election within six months and can rule by decree until then, under the oversight of the country's top court, reports the AP. He is believed to have the support of Ecuador's military, whose leader warned Wednesday that any violence would be dealt with "firmly."

This is the first time an Ecuadorian leader has used the muerte cruzada mechanism, which was added to the country's constitution in 2008 to prevent prolonged political standoffs. Lasso said the move was necessary "due to a grave political crisis and internal commotion" and accused the National Assembly of working to destabilize the government. The conservative leader said the move was a "democratic decision not only because it is constitutional but because it returns to the Ecuadorian people the possibility to decide."

Lasso dissolved the assembly on what would have been second day of his impeachment trial, in which he was accused of turning a blind eye to embezzlement from a state-owned oil transport company, costing the country millions of dollars in public funds, the BBC reports. An impeachment vote had been expected within days. Removing Lasso from office would have required the support of at least 92 of the assembly's 137 lawmakers. Some 88 lawmakers had voted in favor of the trial going ahead, a sign that Lasso was in serious danger of becoming the first Ecuadorian president to be impeached. (More Ecuador stories.)

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