Ecuador’s Undiplomatic Basta!

On April 5, the government of Ecuador made the controversial decision to raid the embassy of Mexico in Quito to arrest former Vice President Jorge Glas just hours after Mexico had granted him political asylum. Glas, who was twice convicted on bribery and corruption charges and spent five years in prison, is under investigation once again, this time for the alleged mismanagement of reconstruction funds in the aftermath of an earthquake.

In December, he took refuge in the Mexican embassy in Quito. He was aware that López Obrador, the Mexican president, who, like other Latin American populists, has made it common practice to protect ideological friends who commit crimes in other countries, would lend him a hand.

Mr. Glas served as minister and vice president of Rafael Correa, the autocrat who came to power through the ballot box in 2007 and subverted democracy from within, designing a new constitution that granted him re-election and near-dictatorial powers that he used to persecute adversaries, manipulate the courts, silence the media and reign over an empire of corruption. A decade later, Correa handpicked Lenin Moreno to become his successor and ensured Glas was also on the ticket. Once in government, Moreno turned on Correa and his legacy, laying the foundations for a return to full democracy and a judicial review of the previous government’s actions. 

Glas was fired a few months into the new government and the courts went on with their work, ostensibly with little political interference. One of the results was the conviction of Mr. Glas for taking bribes from Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant whose extensive corrupt practices became the matter of numerous political scandals and judicial cases throughout Latin America. 

Glas was also convicted on corruption charges related to public procurement in a separate case. In 2022, when he had yet to complete his sentence, he was released from prison conditionally by a judge who had no jurisdiction over this case and who was subsequently prosecuted himself on various charges and sentenced to prison. Among many other things, the judge was accused of liberating several drug traffickers who were incarcerated.

Mr. Glas understood that he was in trouble again when new evidence of his criminal conduct surfaced, and new proceedings were initiated against him. It was time to flee Ecuador. He chose the Mexican embassy, where he took refuge in December, fully informed of the penchant that López Obrador and his political tribe have for Latin American left-wing criminals. 

Now, storming embassies constitutes a violation of international law. Diplomatic conventions, including the much-cited Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), clarify that the premises of diplomatic missions are inviolable. 

Ecuadorean president Daniel Noboa knew this when he ordered the extraordinary measure—and fully expected the condemnations from many countries around the western hemisphere and other parts. However, his decision has highlighted the fact that Latin American left-wing populists have made a mockery of international law by granting protection, for ideological reasons, to people for whom the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and other conventions protecting the sanctity of diplomatic missions were not meant, blatantly interfering in the affairs of other states to destabilize them. Such hostile conduct directly opposes the letter and the spirit of international law governing relations among states. 

Various conventions clearly state that diplomatic asylum cannot be granted to people charged with or indicted for common crimes. The 1928 Convention on Asylum (article 1), the 1933 Convention on Political Asylum (article 1), and the 1954 Convention on Diplomatic Asylum (article 3) unambiguously state that asylum cannot be granted to people who are indicted or on trial for common offenses, or who have not served their full sentences, precisely the kind of situation in which Mr. Glas found himself when Mexico announced, on April 5, that he was being granted diplomatic protection and would be flown to Mexico City.

Even the Organization of American States, dominated by left-wing governments, many of which are themselves authoritarian, in the process of becoming such or support authoritarian friends throughout the western hemisphere, included in its April 10 resolution, in relation to this affair, a reminder of article 3 of the 1954 convention.

For many years, under the so-called Estrada doctrine, Mexico’s foreign policy was presided by the principle of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs. It was a somewhat hypocritical stance, since Mexico lent support in indirect ways to left-wing dictatorships, including Cuba, that were busy trying to subvert liberal democracy in third countries. The Mexican authorities, all of them part of the PRI, the party that controlled politics in that country for seven decades, thought that subtly supporting Marxist revolutionaries would spare them a domestic Marxist revolution (something that proved short-sighted, but that’s another story).

López Obrador has shed any vestige of the old non-intervention principle and spends a good part of his time meddling in other countries’ affairs (including his insufferable daily morning press conferences that go on for hours). Ecuador is one of them—which is why Noboa decided to brace the diplomatic storm that he knew his actions would generate and try to put him in his place. 

Alvaro Vargas Llosa is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute. His Independent books include Global Crossings, Liberty for Latin America, and The Che Guevara Myth.
Beacon Posts by Alvaro Vargas Llosa | Full Biography and Publications
  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless