Ecuador committee report does not recommend Lasso removal, lawmaker says

FILE PHOTO: Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso sits for an interview, in Quito

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) - The oversight committee of Ecuador's National Assembly will debate a draft report that concludes President Guillermo Lasso did not participate in embezzlement and recommends against his impeachment, a lawmaker said on Friday.

Opposition politicians pushed for impeachment hearings on accusations Lasso turned a blind eye to alleged embezzlement related to a contract between state-owned oil transportation company Flopec and a private business.

Lasso has denied the allegations, saying the contract was signed in 2018 - long before he became president in 2021 - and that his administration made profitable changes to the deal based on advice from the comptroller.

Oversight committee president Fernando Villavicencio said the draft report is based on an analysis of all the evidence presented in hearings by the committee.

"We have prepared and concluded the report which recommends that there is not cause to try or remove President Guillermo Lasso," Villavicencio told TV station Teleamazonas.

The report will be debated and voted on Saturday by the nine-member committee.

Regardless of the committee's decision, the report will then pass to the plenary of the 137-member assembly, which will decide whether to hold hearings and possibly remove Lasso.

Ninety-two votes are needed to remove him, and lawmakers from the party of ex-President Rafael Correa - himself convicted of corruption - have pledged their 47 votes in favor.

Other opposition parties are divided on whether to back Lasso's removal, while his allies have said they have enough votes to block the motion.

The government did not immediately respond to Villavicencio's comments, but Lasso's lawyer has said the opposition failed to establish what alleged loss of funds took place in relation to the contract.

Under Ecuador's constitution, Lasso could call early presidential and legislative elections rather than face a removal vote.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by David Gregorio)