Monday, May 20, 2024

Ecuador declares Mexican ambassador persona non-grata

Ecuador responded to perceived insults by Mexico’s president by declaring the Mexican ambassador to the country a persona non-grata on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador insinuated that Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa benefited from the assassination of a rival candidate during last year’s presidential elections in the South American nation. 

Daniel Noboa, Ecuador’s 36-year-old president, expelled Mexico’s ambassador to the country following remarks by AMLO. (Daniel Noboa Azin/Facebook)

The next day, Noboa formally declared Raquel Serur Smeke persona non-grata, effectively banishing the Mexican diplomat from Ecuador.

“Ecuador is still mourning this horrific act that shocked the public and was an attack on democracy, peace and security,” said Ecuador’s Foreign Relations Ministry in its statement announcing the president’s declaration. 

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry (SRE) instructed Serur to return to Mexico and defended the ambassador in a statement

The SRE declared that Serur had served honorably since presenting her credentials in Quito in June 2019, meeting with all three Ecuadorian presidents that had served during that time. “[The ambassador] strengthened ties between businesses in both countries and energetically promoted cultural exchanges.”

Fernando_Villavicencio
Fernando Villavicencio, an Ecuadorian politician and former journalist, was assassinated in August 2023 ahead of the last presidential election. (Asamblea Nacional del Ecuador/Wikimedia)

During his Wednesday morning press conference, López Obrador questioned the course of the Ecuadorian election after the assassination of candidate Fernando Villavicencio, leader of the right-leaning Movimiento Construye (MC25), last August.

López Obrador claimed that left-leaning candidate Luisa González was unfairly smeared by the local media and that unjust hints of her involvement caused her to drop in the polls. Although she won the first round of elections just 11 days after the murder with 33% of the vote, González lost to Noboa 52% to 48% in the Oct. 15 run-off.

González is a protégé of former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a political ally of López Obrador. 

Fernando Villavicencio, a former investigative journalist, was an ardent critic of Correa, who forced Villavicencio into exile after jailing him briefly. He was killed by armed civilians in Quito after holding a campaign event.

In response to speculation at the time that an Ecuadorian criminal gang linked to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel was responsible for the murder, both López Obrador and Foreign Affairs Minister Alicia Bárcena denied there was any evidence of the cartel’s involvement.

Hard feelings between the two countries emerged last December when former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas sought asylum at Mexico’s Embassy in Quito after escaping from prison.

Glas served under Correa but was kicked out of office in 2017, after which he was convicted of taking bribes and given a 16-year prison sentence. On March 1, Mexico denied Noboa’s request to enter the Quito embassy to arrest Glas.

AMLO announced on Friday that Mexico would grant former Vice President of Ecuador Jorge Glas asylum. (vicepresidencia.gob.ec)

On Friday morning, Mexico announced it would grant Glas asylum and request that Ecuador guarantee safe conduct out of the country. Noboa has said in the past that he would not grant free passage to Glas and there is a heavy police presence around the embassy to prevent his escape.

The SRE officially objected to the police presence around its embassy in its Friday statement, calling it a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.  

According to the statement released by Ecuador’s Foreign Relations Ministry, diplomatic relations between the two countries have not been broken, despite the tensions.

With reports from El País, Aristegui Noticias and Eme Equis

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