Et were film-worthy scenes on Friday evening in the Ecuadorian capital Quito. Heavily armed security forces wearing balaclavas surrounded the Mexican embassy. Former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas, who has an arrest warrant for corruption, was staying there. When security forces were denied access to arrest Glas, they quickly violently stormed the diplomatic mission, triggering an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Immediately after security forces entered the embassy, ​​which violated international law, Mexico suspended diplomatic relations until further notice. The Mexican Foreign Ministry also announced that it would file a complaint with the United Nations International Court of Justice.

Glas had been staying in the Mexican embassy since December and applied for asylum there, which was granted to him on Friday. Mexico apparently planned to fly glass out of Ecuador, which Ecuador wanted to prevent. The 54-year-old Glas, who was vice president during the government of left-wing populist Rafael Correa between 2013 and 2017, has already been convicted twice in corruption cases and has been in prison for several years. It is said to have received bribes for the award of public construction contracts. He was released at the end of 2022, but is already facing a new charge of misuse of public resources.

Connections to the drug trade?

Like Correa, who was also convicted of corruption but has lived in Belgium since leaving office, Glas also claims the charges are politically motivated. In addition to the corruption cases, Glas is also suspected of having ties to the drug trade.

To avoid being imprisoned again, Glas barricaded himself in the Mexican embassy. Ecuador claims the asylum offer was illegal because under international law, people accused of crimes cannot be granted asylum. In early March, Ecuador unsuccessfully asked for permission to enter the embassy to arrest Glas, which Mexico refused. Mexico claims it has closely examined Glas's case.

Diplomatic tensions between Ecuador and Mexico have escalated in recent days. Last Thursday, Quito declared the Mexican ambassador persona non grata after “unfortunate” statements by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and asked her to leave the country. The day before, López Obrador had described the election in Ecuador as “rigged,” for which he blamed the “corrupt media.”

The storming of the embassy in Quito represents the climax of the diplomatic crisis between the two countries. After the incidents on Friday, the left in Ecuador announced that it would initiate steps to depose President Daniel Noboa. Former President Correa said that nothing like this had existed “even in the worst dictatorships.” The storming of the Mexican embassy in Quito was also criticized by numerous governments in Latin America from all political camps. The Brazilian government condemned Ecuador's actions as a clear violation of international norms that prohibit such a raid on a foreign embassy. Argentina's government, however, demanded compliance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Colombia's President Gustavo Petro said his government would seek human rights protection for Glass from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights because his right to asylum had been “barbarically” violated. The Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) said a permanent council meeting would be convened to discuss the need for strict adherence to international treaties.

Mexico has repeatedly offered itself as a refuge for fugitive presidents and vice presidents in recent years. At the end of 2019, when there were violent unrest in Bolivia following allegations of election manipulation and many called for the arrest of then-President Evo Morales, he finally left the country on a Mexican Air Force plane. Morales received asylum in Mexico, where he remained until his return to Bolivia. Former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo also tried to get to the Mexican embassy in Lima at the end of 2022 after a failed self-coup, but was arrested on the way there. Mexico had agreed to grant Castillo asylum.