Weekly Report - 02 March 2023 (WR-23-09)

ECUADOR: Lasso faces renewed threat of impeachment

The threat of impeachment is once again hanging over Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso, after a legislative commission formed to investigate alleged corruption in his government recommended the launch of formal impeachment proceedings on 1 March. This came amid renewed pressure from the powerful umbrella indigenous organisation Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (Conaie), which on 24 February also urged legislators to launch a second impeachment attempt against Lasso. Two days later Conaie further upped the stakes, blaming the government for the murder of a leading indigenous activist.

The legislative commission, which was formed in response to allegedly widespread government corruption under President Lasso [WR-23-07], approved a report by six votes to one advising deputies to launch impeachment proceedings against the president. The argument for impeachment centres around articles in Ecuador’s constitution enabling the removal of presidents for “crimes against the security of the state” and “crimes of extortion, bribery, embezzlement, or illicit enrichment”. Members of the legislative commission argued that these crimes were committed as part of an alleged corruption racket, which reportedly involves Lasso’s brother-in-law, Danilo Carrera Drouet [WR-23-03].

The commission’s recommendation will not in itself trigger impeachment proceedings, but it does bring them one step closer. The report would first need to be approved by a majority of lawmakers in the national assembly, and the impeachment process would also need to be approved by the constitutional court. If these hurdles are cleared, 92 deputies (two-thirds of the national assembly) would need to vote against Lasso for him to be impeached.

In response to the commission’s findings, an interior ministry statement accused its members of “an assault on reason and common sense” and claimed that “the fight against corruption never really mattered to them”. Arguing that there is no evidence linking Lasso to the corruption allegations, the government argued that any attempt at impeachment would not survive the scrutiny of the constitutional court.

Conaie turns up the heat

Speculation over a possible impeachment attempt was already mounting prior to the report’s release, with Conaie indicating that it will renew its efforts to oust Lasso from office. Having twice forced Lasso into major policy U-turns [WR-22-37, WR-21-43], Conaie holds real power over the government – both via its ability to whip up large protests, and through its political arm, Pachakutik, which is the second-largest force in the national assembly.

Following a 24 February congress held to assess the government’s fulfilment of the pledges it made to end anti-government protests in June 2022 [WR-22-27], the indigenous organisation issued 14 resolutions. Two of these called for Lasso’s departure from the presidency, either by resigning “out of dignity and due to his inability to govern”, or via impeachment proceedings, which it urged legislators to launch in response to the corruption allegations that are amassing against the government. Conaie also declared that it will end its participation in regular dialogue sessions with the Lasso administration, adding that it would orchestrate demonstrations for 8 March in support of International Women’s Day.

The risk for the government is that Lasso could now face two separate impeachment drives – one from the legislative commission and another from Pachakutik, if the party decides to act on Conaie’s demands. Pachakutik and Conaie do not operate in lockstep, and, at least officially, the party remains allied with the government. In practice, however, that alliance disintegrated long ago. In the previous impeachment vote against Lasso in June 2022, over his alleged mishandling of social protests spearheaded by the country’s indigenous movement that descended into violence, leading to fatalities, most of Pachakutik’s deputies voted against the president [WR-22-26]. The impeachment attempt fell just 12 votes short of the requisite 92 to prosper.

If deputies do successfully launch impeachment proceedings then Lasso’s prospects could be dim, especially after voters delivered him an emphatic defeat in a referendum that looked like a plebiscite on his rule on 5 February, alongside provincial and municipal elections [WR-23-06]. Lasso’s centre-right Movimiento Creo (MC) holds a mere 12 of the 137 seats in the national assembly, and the government is unenthusiastically propped up by the centre-left Izquierda Democrática (ID), which has 18 seats, and an assortment of smaller parties.

The leftist Unión por la Esperanza (Unes) coalition, the dominant force in the national assembly with 49 seats, which is aligned with former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017), an inveterate rival and critic of Lasso’s, can be expected to vote unanimously against the government. This leaves little room for defections from ID.

Indigenous leader murdered

The scale of the demonstrations on 8 March could sway any wavering deputies over whether or not to support the government in an eventual impeachment vote. Those demonstrations are likely to be followed in the coming weeks by Conaie protests to condemn the murder on 26 February of Eduardo Mendúa, the organisation’s director of international relations. Mendúa was shot dead at his home in the northern Amazonian province of Sucumbíos, where he played a leading role in campaigns against drilling for oil by the state oil company Petroecuador.

Mendúa’s killing threatens to dramatically raise tensions between the government and Conaie, which has blamed Petroecuador for the murder. Conaie’s Amazonian branch (Confeniae) issued a statement saying that Mendúa was killed as part of “a conflict generated by the presence of that company as a result of the pro-extractivist misrule of Guillermo Lasso, which threatens Amazonian territories”.

Conaie’s national president, Leonidas Iza, also implied state responsibility. Iza said that “the government and oil companies will have to answer for this crime”. He claimed that leading figures within Conaie had been followed and intimidated as a result of their opposition to oil drilling.


At least 1,660 hectares of Amazon rainforest have been felled in Ecuador since 2017 for gold mining, according to a report published by the US-based NGO Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) in collaboration with the Ecuadorean organisation Fundación EcoCiencia. The most affected area of the country is the province of Napo; 125 hectares of rainforest have been destroyed since 2021 due to illegal gold mining near the rural Yutzupino community in Napo, MAAP reported.

Oil production slashed amid spill fears

Ecuador’s energy and mining ministry declared a force majeure in the oil sector on 23 February in response to a landslide in Quijos canton, in the northern province of Napo, which endangered two oil pipelines. Petroecuador halted oil flows through the state-owned trans-Ecuadorean pipeline system (SOTE) and the Shushufindi-Quito pipeline, which is operated by the private company Oleoductos de Crudos Pesados (OCP).

The threatened stretches of pipeline were drained amid fears of an imminent rupture, and Petroecuador installed containment barriers and absorbent materials in preparation for a spill.

Lost oil production

Pumping was resumed on 1 March after the landslide in Quijos canton, but during the week-long suspension Petroecuador’s oil production fell by over 50%, from 484,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 239,000 bpd.

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