Ecuador assembly backs report calling for Lasso impeachment process

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's National Assembly on Saturday voted in favor of a report which recommends opening an impeachment process against President Guillermo Lasso, accusing him of corruption over dealings in public companies.

The report, which is not binding, was approved by 104 of Ecuador's 137 lawmakers in an expected rejection of Lasso's leadership. Lasso, a conservative former banker, does not have a majority in the National Assembly and has repeatedly clashed with lawmakers, some of who tried to oust him in 2022.

The report was presented on Wednesday by a commission of seven mostly opposition lawmakers who examined accusations that positions and contracts at Ecuadorean state companies had been exchanged for bribes.

The report concluded Lasso could have been involved in possible crimes against state security and public administration, assertions rejected by the government.

Lasso's government has called the report an "attack on reason" and said its findings are based on coincidences and conjecture.

Following the lawmakers' decision on Saturday, Government Minister Henry Cucalon said the Assembly approved "a shameful report ... lacking legal and binding validity."

In order for impeachment hearings to go ahead, a lawmaker must present accusatory evidence against Lasso with support from 46 other legislators, and the constitutional court must approve the effort.

Former President Rafael Correa's political movement has said one if its lawmakers could present the evidence.

Sofía Espín Reyes, an opposition lawmaker who is part of Correa's movement, said the vote was "justice for the people" of Ecuador.

"There is clear evidence of crimes against public administration and state security," she added on Twitter.

Other options to remove Lasso are available even if impeachment hearings cannot move ahead, opposition lawmakers have said.

"Guillermo Lasso Mendoza is a serious problem and there are many ways to get rid of that problem," opposition politician Mireya Pazmino said on Thursday, adding that protests could pressure him to step down. "We also have the streets."

Last week the CONAIE Indigenous organization called for Lasso's resignation. It is planning protests on March 8.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Additional reporting by Marion Giraldo; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Paul Simao)