Quito (EFE).- Ecuadorians will respond this Sunday to a referendum with which the president, Guillermo Lasso, proposes reforms on issues of security, political organization and the environment, although his opponents believe that the questions are “tricky” and warn of a possible “risk to democracy”.
With the referendum, the Executive seeks to promote eight changes in the Constitution, one of which has to do with one of the greatest concerns of the population: insecurity.
Lasso considers that the referendum “is a tool to defeat the main enemy of all: drug crime and organized crime” and therefore, in the first question, he asks for support to facilitate the extradition of Ecuadorians for these crimes, hitherto prohibited.
Karen Sichel, legal advisor to the Presidency, encourages “breaking that constitutional lock and allowing criminals to be expelled and tried outside.”
In contrast, for the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which brings together fourteen indigenous peoples, it is a question “that manipulates people”, since “extradite is not the same as expelling crime” and “extradition it does not help to reduce the commission of crimes.”
¿Independence or concentration of powers?
The second question has to do with the autonomy of the Prosecutor’s Office to select, evaluate, train and sanction its prosecutors, instead of the Council of the Judiciary: “It is about decentralizing power,” Sichel said in statements offered before This Friday the electoral silence will enter into force.
But for Conaie, this would put “democracy at risk”, since “the evaluation of prosecutors cannot depend on the same institution”, and the Prosecutor’s Office “cannot be judge and party.”
The president of Conaie, Leonidas Iza, asked for a “No” to the referendum because -in his opinion- “the questions are tricky and do not seek to solve the deep problems of Ecuador”, and he even accused Lasso of wanting to control the powers of the State to put “people to cover your back.”
The controversy also revolves around the third question, about reducing the number of assembly members and that their selection be according to the number of inhabitants per province.
With this, the Executive seeks a reconfiguration of the National Assembly “to give it more proportionality” and to assert the right to equal voting, says Sichel, who sees some provinces as overrepresented, while Conaie believes that, if they win the “Yes” , the poor and small provinces lose representation, especially the Andean and Amazonian ones.
Screening of political movements
On political issues, it is also proposed to require political movements a minimum number of affiliates equivalent to 1.5% of the electoral roll.
According to Sichel, in Ecuador there are 272 political movements, where “there is no type of control, neither by the citizen nor by the National Electoral Council (CNE).”
«There are desktop movements, paper movements, shells without representativeness, and that, furthermore, their members do not have to be exclusive, and it is very common to see that they change for convenience from one movement to another, without there being a training school for political thought”, commented the adviser to the Presidency.
Sichel considered that the proliferation of the movements “generates dispersion of the vote, and also political fragmentation”, while, from the beginning of the process, the Conaie believes that this question will limit political participation and promote the accumulation of power.
Remove power to the CPCCS
The fifth issue is about eliminating the power of the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control (Cpccs) to designate authorities, such as the attorney general or the comptroller, and pass it on to the National Assembly.
“We seek to decentralize this power so that it does not happen to us again that a single person has the ability to cloud the entire State through an organ,” says Sichel, whose seven advisers he describes as “politicians disguised as citizens.”
In opposition, the Conaie brands the question as “trickster”, considering that it supposedly seeks to extend “control authorities allied to the Government to cover its back.”
There is also consultation about passing the appointment of the CPCCS directors to the Assembly, instead of by universal vote, but the Conaie points out that a Council without popular election “is one more desperate attempt by Lasso to control all powers”, although the Government does not have a majority in the Assembly.
Sichel talks about creating “a more transparent and decentralized system where the Assembly will make a political validation at the end of a selection made by a technical commission, where there is a representative of each of the functions of the State, academics and civil society”.
The referendum ends with two questions on the environment: one related to incorporating a water protection subsystem into the national system of protected areas, and another on compensation regulated by the State for citizen support for the generation of environmental services.
The indigenous people ask for a “No” to these questions, as they claim to be “the main defenders of nature”, and they accuse Lasso of being “the first defender of extractivism” and of wanting nature to be “considered just another commodity”.
Given this, Sichel regretted that certain indigenous political leaders are opposed to protecting Ecuador’s water sources, a demand that they have repeatedly claimed: “I think that demonstrates the political immaturity of our society of not differentiating what is asking from whom You are asking,” he concluded.