QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Argentina and Ecuador are in a diplomatic clash after a former Ecuadorian Cabinet minister, who had been convicted of corruption and taken refuge with the Argentine ambassador, escaped from Ecuador’s capital of Quito to Venezuela
Both countries have expelled the other’s ambassador as a result of their disagreement over the handling of María Angeles Duarte, who served in the Cabinet of then Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.
Duarte had been living in the residence of the Argentine ambassador in Quito with her Argentine son since August 2020 to avoid serving an eight-year corruption sentence. Argentina had offered Duarte political asylum, but Ecuador refused to grant her safe passage.
Argentina told Ecuador on Monday that Duarte was no longer in the Quito residence, saying she had left of her own accord. It was later revealed that she left Friday.
Ecuador did not hide its anger, summoning Argentina’s ambassador, Gabriel Fuks, and telling him to leave the country. Argentina followed suit and ordered the expulsion of Ecuador’s ambassador in Buenos Aires, Xavier Monge.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguín told lawmakers that “there was complicity” from Argentina in Duarte’s escape. Holguín said there were “inconsistencies” in what Fuks told Ecuadorian authorities, leading the government to conclude he could no longer be trusted.
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Argentina accused Ecuador of escalating the disagreement, “taking it to a level that damages the bilateral relationship.” It said it was being blamed for the “ineffectiveness of the Ecuadorian authorities” that allowed Duarte to leave undetected. It said Duarte was not a prisoner of its embassy in Quito.
Grace Jaramillo, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said that “the two states bear responsibility” for the fight.
Argentina “didn’t respect due process in Ecuador,” while Ecuador’s Foreign Affairs Ministry “didn’t react on time through regular channels,” she said.
Juan Francisco Camino, a professor at Ecuador’s Hemisferios University, said he didn’t believe that “this will lead to a rupture in relations.”
Duarte held several posts in Correa’s government, including minister of transport and public works in 2010-2014. She was sentenced to eight years in prison for bribery in a case that had to do with irregular campaign donations.
Associated Press writer Daniel Politi in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed to this report.