By Yves Engler – May 25, 2023
Last week right-wing Ecuadorian president Guillermo Lasso dissolved the national assembly. In stark contrast to their response to a similar move by the leftist president of Peru five months ago, Ottawa effectively supported the measure.
As he was on the cusp of being impeached over corruption allegations Lasso dissolved the national assembly. He called on military leaders to endorse his initiative, sent police to take over Congress and cut internet connections to the legislature. The constitutional provision Lasso cited to dissolve the national assembly has never been employed before and it allows the president to rule by decree for six months (though elections need to be held within three months). Lasso has announced that he will use his power to privatize state-owned assets, weaken labour laws and change tax laws.
Washington openly backed Lasso’s move. US ambassador Michael J Fitzpatrick noted, “The government of the United States respects the internal and constitutional processes of Ecuador. We will continue working with the constitutional government, civil society, the private sector, and the Ecuadorean people.”
For its part, Ottawa has stayed mum. There is no mention of Lasso dissolving national assembly on either the Canada in Ecuador or ambassador Stephen Potter’s Twitter. A day before Lasso dissolved Congress to avoid a constitutionally approved impeachment, Global Affairs released a statement titled “Minister Ng celebrates Ecuador and Costa Rica for advancing women’s economic empowerment.”
Former Bolivian President Evo Morales contrasted the reaction to Lasso’s move and a similar effort by the leftist Peruvian president. Morales tweeted, “To avoid prosecution for corruption, Lasso has dissolved the Ecuadorean Congress with the excuse of ‘internal commotion.’ 5 months ago he accused Pedro Castillo of being a coup leader for doing the same.”
Global Affairs reacted quite differently to the Peruvian president dissolving Congress and calling for new elections. They immediately condemned Castillo’s move to rule by decree and backed the military detaining him. Amidst large protests. Canada’s Ambassador to Peru Louis Marcotte worked hard to shore up support for Dina Boluarte’s replacement ‘usurper’ government. In the six weeks after Castillo was ousted Marcotte met with President Boluarte, as well as Peru’s foreign minister, vulnerable populations minister and mining minister. Since then, Ottawa has deepened ties with Boluarte despite an abysmal approval rating.
The Trudeau government has also supported the pro-corporate and pro-Washington Lasso as his support has tumbled. During mass protests led by the indigenous Federation CONAIE last June the Canadian Embassy in Quito echoed Lasso by labeling the protests “violent riots.” But it was the security forces that immediately arrested CONAIE’s leader and killed a handful of protesters as Owen Schalk detailed in “Trudeau silent on police crackdown in Ecuador.”
Ottawa has been seeking a free-trade agreement with Ecuador, reported Schalk in the March article “As Lasso flails, Ottawa pushes for more Canadian mining in Ecuador.” Two weeks ago, ambassador Potter visited Toronto-based Dundee Precious Metals mine in Ecuador.
Canadian diplomats have long worked to advance mining companies’ interests in a country where Canadian firms have been important players.
Contrasting Ottawa’s reaction to Lasso and Castillo’s moves to dissolve Congress once again demonstrates that Ottawa is far more concerned about Canadian corporate interests and Washington’s views then constitutional legitimacy.
How many more examples of this sort of behavior before all Canadians understand the lie that this country is a force for good in the world?
Yves Engler is Montreal-based writer and political activist. In addition to ten published books, Engler's writings have appeared in the alternative press and in mainstream publications such as The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, and Ecologist.
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