Argentina and Ecuador are going through a diplomatic crisis that has led both nations to withdraw their ambassadors. The trigger: a former Ecuadorian Minister of Transportation and Public Works convicted of corruption managed to flee the country to Venezuela, after remaining a refugee in the Argentine embassy in Quito since 2020.
“We hope that this impasse will be resolved soon,” Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguín said in an interview on Wednesday, referring to the diplomatic crisis in which Ecuador and Argentina are mired. “A diplomatic break with Argentina would be a counterproductive measure,” he added.
Following the crisis is a former Transportation and Public Works official. María de los Ángeles Duarte had lived since 2020 in the Argentine embassy in Quito. The former minister of then President Rafael Correa had found refuge there after being sentenced by the justice of her country to 8 years in prison for corruption.
According to the Ecuadorian prosecutor’s office, Duarte was part of a criminal structure that requested bribes for almost 7.6 million dollars from companies in exchange for contracts with the State.
Over the weekend, the woman fled to Venezuela and appeared at the Argentine embassy in Caracas on Tuesday, March 14, prompting the fury of the Ecuadorian government. Quito withdrew its ambassador in Buenos Aires, Xavier Monge, in protest, and Argentina summoned its own, Gabriel Fuks.
How serious is this crisis? “It is a problem that is going to bring unexpected consequences for both countries,” Simón Pachano, a political scientist and professor at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences FLACSO, told RFI. “There was a direct request from President Fernández of Argentina to President Lasso of Ecuador to allow Duarte to leave. The Ecuadorian government officially responded that it could not do it because she already had a judicial sentence and therefore this comes to break that situation, which apparently had been blocked with the conversation between the two presidents, ”he details.
The consequences for both countries may be of a commercial nature, although according to Pachano, the exchanges between Ecuador and Argentina are insignificant. “It may have consequences rather in terms of the alignment of the countries in Latin America. The issues that are being debated, for example, whether or not to revive Unasur, the positions within the OAS. In any case, the cooling of relations between two countries is always complicated, ”he adds.
The Argentine Foreign Ministry maintains that “there is no international norm that obliges the diplomatic authorities to exercise custody over Duarte,” while on the Ecuadorian side, Foreign Minister Holguín affirms that “in the best of cases there was negligence in the care of Mrs. (Duarte) and in the worst case there was complicity in his escape”