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BREAKING

How Ecuador's raid on Mexican embassy rocked Latin America

Police officers stand guard as Ecuador's former Vice President Jorge Glas is expected to arrive at the La Roca Prison, after Ecuadorean forces raided Mexico's embassy to arrest Glas who had been convicted twice of corruption and who had been granted asylum by Mexican authorities, in Guayaquil, Ecuador April 6, 2024. REUTERS/Marcos Pin
Source: REUTERS

The decision by Ecuador to apprehend its former vice president, Jorge Glas within the walls of the Mexican embassy in Quito has strained relations between the two Latin American countries.

54-year-old Glas who served as vice president of Ecuador during Rafael Correa's government from 2013 to 2017 had sought asylum in Mexico's embassy in the Ecuadorian capital after being convicted twice over corruption allegations.

Mexico received support from members of the Latin American community after heavily armed and balaclava-clad police stormed its embassy in the Ecuadorian capital late on Friday, April 5, as per Reuters reports.

Why did Ecuador raid the Mexican embassy?

CCTV shows police raid in Mexican embassy in Ecuador
A view shows a cctv footage of Ecuador security forces raiding Mexican embassy in Ecuador and facing off Mexican official, in Quito, Ecuador, April 5, 2024, in this screen grab taken from a video. Mexico Government tv / Mexico Foreign Secretary /Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Source: Handout

Glas had been living in the embassy since December, seeking refuge after facing graft charges in his home country. However, Ecuadorian authorities argued that the asylum offer extended by Mexico was illegal under international law, as individuals facing criminal charges are typically not granted asylum.

In late 2017, he was sentenced to six years in prison for accepting bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in exchange for state contracts. Later in 2020, he was convicted for using money from contractors to fund political campaigns.

Now, he faces fresh charges of misusing public funds meant for reconstruction after a devastating earthquake in 2016.

Impact on Diplomatic Relations

The raid on the Mexican embassy and the subsequent arrest of Jorge Glas sent shockwaves through the Latin American community. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador condemned the incident on social media, describing it as a “flagrant violation of international law and the sovereignty of Mexico and promptly ordered the suspension of diplomatic ties with Ecuador.

Governments in Latin America including Brazil, Colombia and Argentina criticised Ecuador's actions, highlighting the importance of upholding diplomatic norms and respecting the sanctity of embassy grounds.

The fallout from the embassy raid has also strained relations between Ecuador and neighbouring countries in the region. Nicaragua joined Mexico in severing diplomatic ties with Ecuador.

In response to Ecuador's actions, Mexico says it will file a case against Ecuador at the International Court of Justice, alleging violations of international law. The Latin nation has subsequently called for Ecuador to be suspended from the United Nations until it issues an apology for the diplomatic breach.

Ecuador's government has said that it has evidence that Glas was planning to escape. It has also accused Mexico of “having abused the immunities and privileges granted to the diplomatic mission that housed the former vice president, and granting diplomatic asylum contrary to the conventional legal framework”.

The diplomatic staff of the Mexican embassy have left Ecuador with their families for Mexico as authorities say the embassy will be shut down indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the former vice president remains in custody as he awaits trial for his alleged crimes. His lawyers have filed an appeal for his release on the grounds of unlawful detention, but the outcome of their efforts remains uncertain.

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