Four cabinet ministers resign amid increasing political crisis in Ecuador

The right-wing government of President Guillermo has justified the resignations as a part of an “evaluation of its entire cabinet” for the best execution of the government’s plans. The circumstances surrounding the resignations say otherwise

May 01, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Guillermo Lasso signing in the new Ministry of Defense Luis Lara. Photo: Guillermo Lasso

In less than three days, four cabinet ministers resigned from their positions in the government of conservative President Guillermo Lasso amid the increasing political crisis in the country. The cabinet changes came one month before the completion of the first year in office of the Lasso administration. Although the Presidency declared that the resignations were requested by the head of state and were part of a reshuffle he had planned, the circumstances surrounding the resignations suggest growing turmoil within his administration.

On April 28, agriculture and livestock minister Pedro Álava presented his irrevocable resignation after holding the office for seven months. Álava didn’t explain the reasons for resignation. “I send you my irrevocable resignation from this State Portfolio, in which I deposited all my energies and knowledge to comply with your policy in favor of the small farmer,” he wrote. It is important to note that in recent weeks, Álava’s management was questioned by representatives of various agricultural production sectors, especially banana producers, who organized various protests and strikes condemning the lack of policies to support the sector in the face of the loss due to the impossibility to export bananas to Russia.

The same day, minister-ranking head of the human rights secretariat Bernarda Ordóñez also submitted her resignation after 11 months in office due to differences with the national government. In her resignation letter, posted on Twitter, Ordóñez said that the decision was due to “a new vision put forth by the national government, which is distanced from the initial objective of building a country of opportunities and finding rights.” She expressed a first difference with the president when the feminist marches on International Women’s Day were repressed by the police in the capital and Guayaquil city. President Lasso supported the police’s work, while Ordóñez expressed her solidarity with women and demanded explanations for the violence.

Besides being a member of the zero femicides and non-discrimination against LGBTI people team, Ordóñez was also the head of the Social Rehabilitation Sytem, the country’s prison system that has been going through a severe crisis since 2021 due to prison riots, massacres of inmates as a result of clashes between rival gangs. The government has not yet named replacements for Álava and Ordóñez.

On April 27, Energy and Mines Minister Juan Carlos Bermeo quit his position after holding it for 11 months. In his resignation letter, Bermeo said that he had “completed a cycle” and that it was time for him to “return to his private activities.” Bermeo left office at a time when the National Assembly (Ecuador’s unicameral parliament) was analyzing a possible impeachment trial against him. Bermeo failed to deliver semi-annual reports of the Declaration of National Interest on oil exploitation in blocks 31 and 43 within the Yasuní National Park. He also failed to deliver the information requested by various assembly members, regarding issues of environmental pollution generated by oil exploitation, mining, and hydroelectric projects. For this reason, on April 27, the Legislative Biodiversity Commission rejected his absence and resolved to request the Presidency to summon the official before the Plenary Assembly. On April 28, Xavier Vera Grunauer, who served as Bermeo’s vice-minister of mines, was sworn in.

Earlier this week, on April 26, defense minister Luis Hernández handed in his resignation, without specifying reasons. In his resignation letter, Hernández said that for six months he had complied with the policies imposed by the government, “with dedication and along the path that I have believed is the correct one to lead the Armed Forces at the service of the highest interests of the country.” Hernández’s departure came after the scandal that arose when it was discovered that the head of an alleged illegal money-raising network had entered the defense ministry’s facilities several times. The investigations indicated that several soldiers and officers were clients of this person, named Miguel Ángel Nazareno, also known as ‘Don Naza,’ who escaped from a police operation that tried to arrest him, but days later was found dead near a highway. In Hernández’s replacement, on the night of April 26, Luis Luna Jaramillo, former head of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, was sworn in.

Before Álava and Ordóñez’s resignations were known, on April 28, the government issued a statement announcing that it had requested the resignation of the four ministers as part of an “evaluation of its entire cabinet” to make the changes that are considered pertinent “based on the best execution of the Plan of Creation of Opportunities 2021-2025.” “The leadership of each ministry of state will be carried out by the best in the country….The government of Ecuador remains committed to the completion of its duties,” added the statement.

Read more: Ecuadorian president restructures cabinet amid growing political crisis