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Latin American governments rally around Mexico after embassy raid in Ecuador

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Latin American governments, including regional heavyweight Brazil, rallied around Mexico after its embassy in Ecuador was raided to arrest a controversial politician who had been granted asylum by Mexican authorities.

Demonstrators gather outside the Mexican embassy in Ecuador to ask for the freedom of former Vice President Jorge Glas, Quito, April 6, 2024. Picture: Reuters, Karen Toro

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO – Latin American governments, including regional heavyweight Brazil, rallied around Mexico on Saturday after its embassy in Ecuador was raided to arrest a controversial politician who had been granted asylum by Mexican authorities.

The late Friday night seizure of Jorge Glas, Ecuador’s former vice president who was detained on graft charges, triggered a suspension of relations with Quito by Mexico City, with the government of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador blasting the unusual diplomatic incursion and arrest as an “authoritarian” act as well as a breach of international law and Mexico’s sovereignty.

The government of Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa had argued asylum protections were illegal because of the corruption charges Glas is facing.

Still, under international law, embassies are considered the sovereign territory of the country they represent.

On Saturday, governments across the political spectrum in Latin America – including Brazil and Colombia on the left, and Argentina and Uruguay on the right – sharply criticized the arrest of Glas, who had sought refuge in the embassy since December.

He could be seen on video circulating on social media being taken by police convoy to the airport in the capital Quito, flanked by heavily armed soldiers. He then boarded a plane en route to a jail in Guayaquil, the Andean nation’s largest city.

Photos on social media, including one posted by Cuba’s foreign minister, showed what appeared to be the embassy’s wall being scaled by armed police or soldiers. Reuters could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the photos.

Brazil’s government condemned Ecuador’s move as a “clear violation” of international norms prohibiting such a raid on a foreign embassy.

Ecuador’s move against the embassy “must be subject to strong repudiation, whatever the justification for its implementation,” according to a statement from Brazil’s foreign ministry, which stressed Brasilia’s solidarity with Mexico.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement said the United States condemns any violation of the convention protecting diplomatic missions.

The statement added the United States encourages “the two countries to resolve their differences in accord with international norms.”

‘FLAGRANT VIOLATION’

Mexico’s top diplomat Alicia Barcena expressed shock at Ecuador’s incursion into the country’s embassy, located in Quito’s financial district, calling it “a violent attack” perpetrated by the police.

“Mexico reiterates its condemnation for the violation of the immunity of its embassy in Quito and the attack on its staff,” she said in a message shared on X late on Saturday, adding that 18 would return to Mexico on Sunday.

“(Mexico) reiterates that it will appeal to the International Court of Justice and all relevant regional and international bodies after this clear and flagrant violation of international law.”

Earlier in the day, she said that Glas was granted asylum after an exhaustive analysis of the circumstances surrounding the accusations he faces.

Also on Saturday, the Washington-based Organization of American States issued a call for dialogue to resolve the escalating dispute between Ecuador and Mexico, adding in a statement that a session of the body’s permanent council will be convened to discuss the need for “strict compliance with international treaties, including those that guarantee the right to asylum.”

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, meanwhile, argued in a post on X that Latin America “must keep alive the precepts of international law in the midst of the barbarism that is advancing in the world.”

Petro’s government noted it will seek human rights legal protections for the now-detained Glas, according to a separate statement.

Glas, convicted twice for corruption, had been holed up in the embassy in Quito since seeking political asylum in December, a request Mexico granted on Friday.

Ecuadorean authorities had unsuccessfully sought permission from Mexico to enter the embassy and arrest Glas.

In 2017, Glas, the former second-in-command to ex-President Rafael Correa, also a leftist, was sentenced to six years in prison after he was found guilty of taking bribes from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht in exchange for awarding it government contracts.

As he faced a fresh arrest warrant on separate graft charges, Glas has claimed he is the victim of political persecution, a charge Ecuador’s government has denied.

– REUTERS

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