Latin America

Lasso calls for referendum from a position of weakness

The embattled Ecuadorian president’s attempt to regain the upper hand by appealing to the popular will is not an usual political move in Latin America — but it is one that could backfire on him

Guillermo Lasso has battled Congress and narrowly escaped an impeachment vote. Photo: Jonathan Miranda/Presidencia de la República
Guillermo Lasso has battled Congress and narrowly escaped an impeachment vote. Photo: Jonathan Miranda/Presidencia de la República

Over the years, multiple Latin American leaders have used plebiscites to bypass lawmakers and reshape their country’s institutional framework. Guillermo Lasso, the embattled president of Ecuador, is the latest to try appealing directly to voters on issues of policy.

A week ago, Mr. Lasso made public his proposals to reshape Congress (cutting down the number of seats), grant the military powers to fight drug-trafficking gangs, and protect water sources. If approved by the country’s top court, these proposals — presented in eight questions — should go to a popular vote.

For many reasons, Mr. Lasso’s move is puzzling to political observers. Referendums...

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