Ecuador’s Embassy Raid and Diplomatic Fallout

Photo via the World Politics Review

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On Friday, April 5, Ecuadorian law enforcement broke into Mexico’s embassy in Quito to remove the former vice-president of Ecuador, Jorge Glas, who was wanted for corruption charges. He has been in exile since December, and was finally granted political asylum from Mexico just hours before the arrest. Footage of the arrest shows officers pointing a gun at the Deputy Chief of Mission, Robert Canesco, and wrestling him to the ground. 

Jorge Glas has been convicted of corruption and bribery charges two times before. First, he was sentenced to six years in prison for accepting bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. He was then sentenced to eight years for a role in accepting bribes for public procurement. Glas was freed from prison in 2022 through a controversial ruling, claiming that his health was deteriorating and he could no longer be in prison. 

Glas claimed he was seeking asylum at the embassy because of political persecution. The Ecuadorian justice system pursued his arrest because there was a possibility that he mishandled funds meant for recovery efforts after a deadly earthquake hit Ecuador in 2016. Ecuador’s young president, Daniel Noboa, has promised a new era for Ecuador and vowed to crack down on crime. The country’s vigorous efforts to arrest Glas could be partly due to this. 

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, criticized the intrusion on his X account. He wrote, “This is a flagrant violation of international law and Mexico’s sovereignty…declare the suspension of diplomatic relations with the government of Ecuador.” Ecuador violated the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by breaking into Mexico’s embassy. In Article 22, international law protects embassies and consulates as places of inviolability. Because these buildings are supposed to be immune from attacks, international leaders have called out Ecuador for breaking the global norm. 

In defense, Ecuador said that it informed Mexico about the arrest warrant issued against Glas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador argued that under Article 1 of the 1933 Convention on Political Asylum, it was lawful for Ecuador to break in and arrest him. Article 1 states, “It is unlawful for states to grant asylum to those accused of common offenses who may have been duly prosecuted or who may have been sentenced by ordinary courts of justice.” The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States responded by asserting that they reject any action that endangers a diplomatic premise’s inviolability. 

Countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela have been harshly criticizing Ecuador for their actions. Nicolás Maduro, President of Venezuela, noted that not even under South America’s abhorred dictatorships did such an action against international law take place. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, also voiced how the act jeopardized international norms. The Biden Administration responded by condemning the violation of the Vienna Convention and encouraged the two countries to work out their differences in accordance with international standards. 

There is much outrage—violating this international law is almost unprecedented, as there has only been a small number of raids on embassies in history. Natalia Saltalamacchia, a professor of international relations at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, says that by ignoring this precedent, Ecuador has endangered all the embassies in the world. Since the Vienna Convention, these inviolability and diplomatic immunity laws have allowed each country to work out diplomatic missions safely. 

These recent and ongoing events surrounding the arrest at Mexico’s embassy in Quito have sparked intense debate and raised critical concerns about the future of international law, diplomatic norms, and political asylum. As the fallout is ongoing, the incident is a stark reminder of the delicate balance between diplomatic immunity and the rule of international law in an evolving international political landscape.