Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso gestures during a meeting with US senators Robert Menendez and Timothy Kaine at the Carondelet Palace in Quito on April 10, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
QUITO – A representative from Ecuador's opposition and a lawyer for President Guillermo Lasso on Wednesday gave dueling testimony to a congressional committee tasked with recommending whether to remove the conservative leader from office.
Opposition lawmakers have pushed impeachment hearings against the former banker, alleging Lasso disregarded possible embezzlement connected to an oil shipping contract between public company Flopec and a private-sector business.
Lasso has denied wrongdoing, pointing out the contract was signed in 2018, three years before he took office, and that his administration negotiated profitable changes to it under recommendations from the comptroller.
Lasso did "nothing" when warned about irregularities in the contract, opposition lawmaker Viviana Veloz testified to the committee.
Opposition lawmakers have pushed impeachment hearings against the former banker, alleging President Guillermo Lasso disregarded possible embezzlement connected to an oil shipping contract between public company Flopec and a private-sector business
"That's why he should be censured and removed, this is the constitutional truth and the political truth that many are trying to hide from the Ecuadorean people," said Veloz, who presented letters and video she said showed Lasso's guilt. "There is more than enough proof of acts of corruption at Flopec."
There is no proof Lasso was ever involved with Flopec contracts, his lawyer Edgar Neira testified.
ALSO READ: FT: Ecuador's Lasso to dissolve congress in case of impeachment
"The president does not have Flopec resources, nor those of any public company, under his care," Neira said. The opposition "has not established what the diversion of funds was, there is not an economic accounting analysis that indicates what the alleged loss was."
The committee should recommend against an impeachment vote, he added, and should declare no corruption took place.
Though Lasso has largely failed to rectify rising crime – a top concern for voters – some Ecuadoreans said his removal was not the solution.
Opposition lawmakers – many allied with former president Rafael Correa, himself convicted of corruption – would need 92 of 137 legislators to favor removing Lasso if the process goes to the full chamber
"The hearings are a waste of time and resources, we don't need this when the country is controlled by criminals," said 60-year-old Yolanda Proano in Quito. "If they end up kicking him out things won't get better, it will be worse for the economy, for employment."
The committee will now have 10 days to prepare its report. The impeachment hearings are the first in decades.
Opposition lawmakers – many allied with former president Rafael Correa, himself convicted of corruption – would need 92 of 137 legislators to favor removing Lasso if the process goes to the full chamber.
Lasso allies have said they have enough backing to block impeachment.
READ MORE: Ecuador's top court says Lasso impeachment hearings can proceed
Under Ecuador's constitution, Lasso could call elections for his post and the assembly instead of facing the impeachment vote.
Another opposition lawmaker said they have complained to the attorney general's office over Lasso's alleged connections to Flopec corruption.