Diplomatic crisis between Quito and Buenos Aires after the flight of Ecuador’s ex-minister

A diplomatic crisis erupted Tuesday between Ecuador and Argentina after a former Ecuadorian minister convicted of corruption following the flight to Venezuela fled the Argentine embassy in Quito, where he had lived for more than two years. Had taken refuge till

Ecuador declared the Argentine ambassador in Quito, Gabriel Fuchs, “persona non grata”, and recalled for consultation its ambassador Javier Monge in Buenos Aires, announced Ecuadorian head of diplomacy Juan Carlos Holguin in a press conference.

Argentina later announced that it was also recalling its ambassador from Ecuador.

Ecuador’s former minister of transport and public works, María de los Angeles Duarte Pesentes, “appeared at the Argentine embassy in Caracas”, the ministry of foreign affairs of Argentina previously said, without specifying how she got there.

The Ecuadorian government said in a statement on Monday that the former minister had fled, urging Argentina to provide an explanation. Holguin said the return of the ambassador to Buenos Aires was due to “inconsistencies” in these explanations.

– “Escape” from the embassy –

Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, for his part, claimed Ms Duarte Pesentes escaped from the embassy “without the staff knowing”.

The former minister took refuge with his minor son in the Argentine embassy in Quito in August 2020, after being sentenced by Ecuadorian justice to eight years for corruption.

Former Ecuadorean minister Maria de los Angeles Duarte in Quito in October 2016 (AFP/ARCHIVE – JUAN CEVALLOS)

He was indicted, along with former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa (2007–2017) – in exile in Belgium – and other former government officials, for their role in orchestrating approximately 7.6 million in bribes in exchange for state contracts, according to prosecutors. party’s office.

In December 2022, Ecuador refused to grant safe conduct to the former minister, which would have allowed him to leave the country and reach Argentina, where he was granted asylum.

“The Argentine government was shocked and deeply saddened by the decision of the Ecuadorian government to escalate the existing disagreement on the status of María de los Angeles Duarte to the point of damaging bilateral relations”, the Argentine Foreign Ministry responded Tuesday evening.

The Argentine ministry continued, “There is no international norm that requires Argentine diplomatic officials to detain Duarte. This temporary situation will not change our deep appreciation for the Ecuadorian people.”

“Therefore, while regretting the incomprehensible decision of the Ecuadorian government to request the withdrawal of Ambassador Gabriel Fuchs from Ecuador, it has been decided on our part to adopt the same position with regard to the Ecuadorian ambassador to Argentina”, a- he said .

Former Socialist President Rafael Correa and his allies unanimously rejected the decisions of the Ecuadorian courts at the time, claiming they were objects of political persecution.

The Argentine ministry clarified that Ms. Duarte “has expressed that she has no intention of moving to Argentina in the short term”.

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