Rubén Cherres, a key figure in the case that led Lasso to impeachment, is assassinated

On Friday, March 31, the businessman Rubén Cherres was found dead, one of those involved in the alleged network of state corruption that was the basis of the political trial against the president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso. Why was Cherres one of the key chips in the crisis that the president is dealing with?

The plot related to the impeachment of the president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, opened a new chapter on Friday. Rubén Cherres Faggioni, a businessman who had been linked to the president’s brother-in-law, was found dead in the town of Punta Blanca, Santa Elena province, in the eastern part of the Latin American country.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, his body was found along with that of three other people—two men and one woman—with bullet wounds and their hands tied. In addition, as reported by the Ministry of the Interior, they showed signs of torture.

The head of said portfolio, Juan Zapata, assured that the Police opened investigations to find out the motives and causes of the murder.

On January 21, the Ecuadorian authorities had issued a search and arrest warrant against Cherres due to his alleged links to a corruption scheme involving state companies.

In addition, his name had been one of the protagonists of the current crisis that Lasso is going through. The publication of some audios by the medium ‘The post’, in which Cherres’ voice was supposedly recognized, were the basis for the opening of the case called ‘The Great Godfather’ and currently known as ‘Encuentro’, for which the president now faces a political trial. One that also put the spotlight on Lasso’s brother-in-law, Danilo Carrera.

His murder comes a few days after the start of the process against the Ecuadorian president. One that was endorsed by the Constitutional Court on Thursday.

Why was Cherres being investigated?

Cherres was 62 years old and had begun his career in the real estate sector, although his ID marked that he was an “oil worker by profession”, as shown ‘The universe’.

In the audios published by ‘La Posta’, his role in an alleged corruption scheme operated by public companies, especially in the electricity and oil sectors, could be glimpsed. According to said publication, Cherres would have helped relatives to obtain contracts and locate themselves in the Public Administration.

The case known as “Great Godfather” was renamed “Encounter” when it passed into the hands of the Prosecutor’s Office.

However, that was not the only investigation that fell on the businessman. as shown ‘Infobae’In a report from the Manta Prosecutor’s Office, a series of meetings with the Albanian citizen Dritan Gjika were documented. It was believed that Cherres had a link to a mafia in that country.

“One of the meetings, documented in the report, dates from May 5, 2021, when Cherres was seen at the Osaka Fish company, bankrupt at the time, in the city of Manta, on the coast of Ecuador, and which would have It has been used by the Albanian mafia as a cover for the operations of the criminal organization”, the outlet assures.

‘The Universe’ shows that Cherres was a partner of Gjika. “Both have shared shares of twelve companies, the majority linked to the real estate business, according to the records of the Superintendency,” the portal documents. Two of these had been pointed out by “not having complied with the control regulations to prevent money laundering, financing of terrorism and other crimes”, he adds.

In 2021, another investigation by the Anti-Drug Police, also reported by ‘La Posta’, included his name. This was seeking to dismantle an alleged drug trafficking network. And according to what was shown in the media, Cherres would have helped plan the shipment of drugs “through a fishing company.”

How is it linked to the political trial of Lasso?

The ‘Encuentro’ case was the basis for initiating the impeachment proceedings against Lasso. The opposition – which controls the country’s Parliament – ​​considered that the president could have knowledge of the corruption plot.

In addition, as EFE points out, “some sectors of the opposition also believe that there are indications that Lasso allegedly protected Cherres of the investigation that the Police carried out by ordering, according to them, that the investigation be archived.”

The Ecuadorian president, Guillermo Lasso, is accused of crimes related to corruption.
The Ecuadorian president, Guillermo Lasso, is accused of crimes related to corruption. © Jose Jacome / EFE

The audios published by ‘La Posta’ show two aspects specifically linked to the president. The first is that it is heard that the businessman allegedly requested a fee of $30,000 for Danilo —a reference that would refer to Lasso’s brother-in-law. And the second, as ‘Infobae’ assures, is that “Cherres mentions that he and his partners have contributed at least $1.5 million to Guillermo Lasso’s campaign.”

Thus, these interceptions would show that Cherres could have been linked to Lasso’s presidential campaign in 2021.

In the impeachment process against the Ecuadorian president, the opposition pointed out the alleged crimes of extortion, corruption and embezzlement (embezzlement of public funds). The Constitutional Court ruled out the first of these.

How has the president reacted?

Shortly after the Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment trial against Lasso, the president reacted by saying that it was a “desperate, timeless and violent attempt to steal the stability of the country.”

However, the Minister of Government, Henry Cucalón, assured that the president will go to the impeachment trial —which he classified as unfounded— and that he will “defend his Presidency.”

On multiple occasions, Lasso has denied the accusations and has said that there is no structure of corruption in his government.

In March, he asked the Prosecutor to investigate his brother-in-law Danilo Carrera for his relationship with Cherres.

What’s next for the president of Ecuador?

Since the approval of the impeachment by the Constitutional Court, parliamentarians have a maximum period of 45 days to draft a text and carry out a scrutiny. A majority of 92 votes — that is, two-thirds of the National Assembly — is needed for Lasso to be removed.

A woman holds a sign that says "Lasso to Trial" as lawmakers from Ecuador's National Assembly debate a report recommending the opening of impeachment hearings against President Guillermo Lasso, in Quito, Ecuador, March 4, 2023.
A woman holds a sign reading ‘Lasso a Juicio’ as lawmakers from Ecuador’s National Assembly debate a report recommending the opening of impeachment hearings against President Guillermo Lasso, in Quito, Ecuador, March 4, 2023. © Reuters / Karen Toro

A favorable result for the president is not so clear. His party, Movimiento CREO Ecuador, is in the minority. While correísmo has generated strong opposition in the judicial body.

If his dismissal is approved, his vice president, Alfredo Borrero, would go on to govern.

However, Lasso would have another possible option. In the country’s Constitution it is established that he can dissolve Parliament and call elections. A mechanism that could play him as a double-edged sword, since his charge could also be in danger.

In parallel, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister resigned

The day of this Saturday in Ecuador was also marked by the resignation of the foreign minister Juan Carlos Holguin.

According to a message shared on their social networks, the decision is made for “personal reasons. In addition, Yourged to respect the Presidency of Lasso.

The president announced a new foreign minister. Gustavo Manrique, who headed Ecuador’s environment portfolio, will take office on Monday.

With EFE, Reuters and local media

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Written by Editor TLN

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