May 18, 2023 - World

Ecuador at risk of deep instability after president dissolved Congress

A woman wearing a bucket hat has her arm out and appears to be yelling next to a soldier in uniform outside government palace in Quito, Ecuador

A demonstrator shouts slogans against Ecuadorian President Lasso on Wednesday after Lasso disbanded Congress. Photo: Franklin Jácome/Getty Images

Experts say Ecuador could face deep political instability after conservative President Guillermo Lasso dissolved Congress yesterday as he faced the final phase of impeachment proceedings.

Driving the news: Lasso is accused of embezzlement, which he strongly denies.

  • Ecuador's constitution allows the president to dissolve Congress in certain situations. Lasso cited a "grave political crisis" for his decision.
  • "This is a democratic decision, not only because it is constitutional, but because it returns the power to the Ecuadorian people ... to decide their future in the next elections," Lasso said in a video broadcast, per Reuters.

What they're saying: "What's happening in Ecuador is part of the big Latin American story right now, which is democracies under duress," Brian Winter, vice president of policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas, tells Axios Latino.

  • "Now it becomes unpredictable because Ecuador has never quite been down this road before," Winter adds.

Lasso's decision to disband Congress "will bring significant political instability and possibly a constitutional crisis, but it will eventually lead to a new equilibrium via new elections," writes Sebastián Hurtado, president of Prófitas, an Ecuador-based political risk consultancy firm, in Americas Quarterly.

  • Will Freeman, fellow for Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Axios Latino that ordinary Ecuadorians distrust the national assembly even more than they do Lasso and that "hardly anyone is shedding tears over its shutdown, even if many see Lasso's move as a self-serving bid to keep his job — and not much else."
  • Freeman points out that the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), which led major protests against Lasso over environmental concerns last year, has not yet called on people to rise up against Lasso's decision to shutter Congress.
  • He adds that CONAIE and the opposition will "hang the threat of mass protests over his head" to keep him in check.

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