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Mexico severs ties with Ecuador after a late-night raid on its embassy


Ecuador's late-night raid on the Mexican Embassy in the capital, Quito, has led to diplomatic uproar between the two countries. Now, late Friday night, fully armed Ecuadorian police breached the doors of the Mexican Embassy to detain the former Ecuadorian vice president, who was taking refuge there. NPR's Eyder Peralta has been following the story from Mexico City. So this diplomatic fallout started with that late-night raid. Take us through all the details.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: So, you know, diplomats are supposed to solve things with words, so this is as serious a diplomatic scuffle as it gets. This had been building for days. Mexico seemed intent on offering the former vice president of Ecuador political asylum, and Ecuador seemed intent on not letting the former vice president, Jorge Glas, out of the country. So in the days before the raid, security forces surrounded the Mexican Embassy in Quito, and on Friday night, they made their move. That meant that security forces in full riot gear stormed the embassy. Roberto Canseco, the head of the consular section at the Mexican Embassy, actually tried to physically stop them, and then he ran after the cars that took the former VP out of the embassy, and he was thrown to the ground. He said, quote, "they came in like criminals."


ROBERTO CANSECO: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: And you can hear him there. He's distraught. He's saying, "this is not possible. This is madness. I'm worried because they might kill him." Very shortly thereafter, the Mexican president broke diplomatic ties with Ecuador, and he ordered his diplomats to come back home. The whole staff flew in yesterday afternoon.

MARTÍNEZ: It sounds like an espionage movie, just like some thriller.


MARTÍNEZ: I mean, so, OK, Jorge Glas. Who is Jorge Glas, and why would Ecuador risk this to arrest him?

PERALTA: He's the former VP who served under President Rafael Correa, and these men are part of the left wing of Ecuadorian politics, but former vice president Jorge Glas was convicted of corruption in 2017, and he served four years in prison. He was released, but Ecuadorian authorities issued another arrest warrant alleging further corruption, and this past December, he sought refuge at the Mexican Embassy, and that's when all of this starts. The Ecuadorian government says he's a criminal and that they will not let any criminal go free. And the Mexican government seems to believe that this is part of a purge of left-wing politicians in Ecuador.

The now-former Mexican ambassador to Ecuador almost broke down in tears at the airport here yesterday. She said Ecuador's current government, quote, "improvises and is alien to the art of politics and the importance of asylum to Mexico and Ecuador," and she has a point here. Mexico has offered refuge to all kinds of people throughout history, from Leon Trotsky to Jose Marti to the Shah of Iran, and so has Ecuador. They famously gave refuge to Julian Assange in their embassy in London.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. All right. So what's done is done, but how seriously is this abuse of diplomatic protocols being taken not just by Mexico, but in the region and beyond?

PERALTA: Mexico's foreign ministry said that the raid of its embassy was, quote, "a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention," which does prohibit states from violating diplomatic premises. And while you can see this as a spat between a leftist Mexican government and the center-right government of Ecuador, the condemnation has been broad. The U.S., the U.N., a mix of left- and right-wing governments in Latin America, they have all stood with Mexico. And Mexico says that today, it will file a case with the International Court of Justice.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Mexico City. Thank you very much.

PERALTA: Thank you, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.