The Ecuadorean legislative body has convicted Maria Paula Romo, Minister of Government for President Lenin Moreno, for her responsibility in her government’s repression of protests during October 2019, which led to almost a dozen dead and thousands wounded and arrested. Her dismissal needed votes from at least 91 members of the body, but 104 voted to convict her and dismiss her from the top government position.
Romo had a maximum of three hours to defend herself against the charges before the plenary, in a session that took place online because of the Covid-19 pandemic. During her intervention, Romo manifested, while reviewing the events of October 2019, that “despite the violent acts, Ecuadorean Police used dissuasive force; moderation and the principles that regulate the use of force prevailed.” Romo expressed support and defended “all the operational instructions that were taken” by the Police during the demonstrations of October 2019.
During another instance of her defense, the minister stated that “although in October 2019 expired tear gas bombs were used, the reports indicate that they are less effective and toxic than those that are not expired”.
The deposed minister, whose branch is in charge of “guaranteeing citizen security and peaceful social coexistence,” was accused by three legislators for not complying with her duties in the exercise of her position. The accusation refers to the scenario of the 11 days of social protests that took place from October 3 to 13, 2019, against economic measures ordered by the National Executive, especially the elimination of fuel subsidies to guarantee an IMF loan, pursued by Lenin Moreno’s government.
Specifically, Romo is being held responsible for the use of expired tear gas bombs and the police action in centers that held the protesters.
Data from the Ecuadorean Ombudsman’s Office revealed that there was excessive use of force in the context of the uprising, and there were at least 11 violent deaths, 1,340 people were injured, and a similar number were arrested.
Romo is likely to face further judicial processes after her dismissal today.