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Ecuador’s Congress suspends Lasso’s impeachment over protests

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The Congress of Ecuador postponed for this Sunday the impeachment debate of the right-wing president William Lasso after deliberating for almost eight hours on Saturday about his responsibility in the “internal commotion”, which left thirteen days of bloody indigenous protests.

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“I am proceeding to suspend this session and call it for its continuation on Sunday at 4:00 p.m.,” said Virgilio Saquicela, president of Parliament.

Some 30 congressmen spoke for and against Lasso in a virtual debate that began around 6:00 p.m. local time on Saturday at the request of the opposition, which gathered the 47 signatures necessary to request the president’s departure from power.

The Union for Hope caucus, related to former socialist president Rafael Correa (2007-2017), accused Lasso of the “serious political crisis and internal commotion” that has shaken the country since June 13, with almost daily demonstrations and blockades.

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“We are going to early elections, that Lasso go home,” cried Assemblywoman Pierina Correa, sister of the former president.

The head of state, a former banker who took office a year ago, did not attend the debate but appointed his legal secretary, Fabián Pozo, to read his defense.

“The assembly members (…) seek to destabilize democracy,” Pozo declared.

The indigenous movement and the government held a first rapprochement on Saturday, and hours later Lasso ended the state of exception that was in force in six of the country’s 24 provinces with a robust military deployment and night curfews. The massive mobilizations in Quito were followed by clashes with the security forces, fueled by police repression.

Rivers of indignant protest in Ecuador in rejection of the high cost of living that plunges their territories into poverty. Its spearhead is the reduction in the price of fuels, which has made freight costs more expensive in agricultural regions.

Strap Darts

“The entire basic basket is very expensive and our products from the field (…) are worth nothing,” Miguel Taday (39 years old), a potato farmer from Chimborazo (south), told AFP.

In the capital alone, some 10,000 indigenous people protest to the cry of “Lasso out, out!”

As the protesters pass, bonfires with burnt tires and destruction are left in a semi-paralyzed and exhausted city.

Lasso blames the chaos on the leader of the protests, Leonidas Iza, president of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities.

“Here there is no social fighter, here there is an anarchist (…) who wants to overthrow a government,” the president said in an interview with CNN on Saturday.

The removal of the president requires 92 of the 137 possible supports in Congress.

After the debates, the deputies will have a maximum of 72 hours to vote.

If approved, power would be assumed by Vice President Alfredo Borrero and presidential and legislative elections would be called for the rest of the period (until 2025).

“President Lasso, don’t be a coward. Call for early elections”, Correa launched on Twitter.

Ecuador gained a reputation for being ungovernable after the abrupt departure of three leaders between 1997 and 2005 due to social pressure.

”We will continue fighting”

The prolonged mobilization leaves five demonstrators dead, more than a hundred arrested and nearly 500 injured, including civilians, police and military, according to various sources.

The Alliance of Organizations for Human Rights had initially given a report of six deaths, which it corrected on Saturday.

Thursday and Friday nights in Quito were the most violent days of the social outbreak. The public force and the demonstrators clashed with Molotov cocktails, pyrotechnic rockets, tear gas and stun grenades.

The rest of the protests have been mostly peaceful. On Saturday morning hundreds of women marched against the government. Some indigenous people went with their eyes painted red.

Ecuador, whose dollarized economy was beginning to recover from the effects of the pandemic, loses some US$50 million a day due to the crisis, according to official figures.

“Here we will continue fighting, until the last consequences,” said Wilmer Umajinga (35), who has been protesting since Monday in the capital.

Counterprotests

Worn out by the crisis, with closed shops and shortages of some products, Quito is also the scene of counter-protests.

Hundreds of Ecuadorians and caravans of high-end vehicles travel through well-off areas blaring their horns and waving white flags.

“Clowns from Correa”, said an Ecuadorian flag in the middle of the march.

The oil industry, the main Ecuadorian export item, is producing at 54% of its capacity, due to the seizure of wells and road closures.

Without much political backing, Lasso now has the support of the military, who have closed ranks around his government.

The president “only wants to confront with his weapons, he only wants to do damage,” lamented María Luisa Maldonado (48), from the town of Cayambe (north).

Source: Gestion

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