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LATIN AMERICA | 21-03-2023 16:37

Alberto Fernández: Diplomatic crisis with Ecuador is ‘unjust, unconscionable’

President slams Ecuador’s response to diplomatic crisis as “serious, unjust and unconscionable"; Growing rift caused by the mysterious appearance in Venezuela of a convicted Ecuadorean ex-minister.

The presidents of Argentina and Ecuador publicly criticised each other on Tuesday, in a growing diplomatic rift caused by the appearance in Venezuela of a convicted Ecuadorean ex-minister.

President Alberto Fernández called the decision by his Ecuadorean counterpart, Guillermo Lasso, to withdraw Quito’s ambassador from Buenos Aires due to the diplomatic crisis i“serious, unjust and unconscionable.”

The crisis was sparked by the fleeing of former Ecuador government minister María de los Ángeles Duarte, a fugitive from her nation’s justice system, to Venezuela. 

 Duarte – who faces an eight-year sentence in Ecuador over bribery charges – had been a refugee at Argentina’s Embassy in Quito for more than two years with her young son.

Argentina had offered asylum to Duarte, who served under former Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa, but Ecuador refused to grant her free passage out of the country. On March 14, Argentina announced that Duarte had appeared at its mission in Caracas but did not know how she had arrived there. 

The incident resulted in Ecuador expelling Argentina's ambassador and recalling its own from Buenos Aires, measures Argentina then reciprocated.

In a Twitter post on Monday, Ecuadorean president Guillermo Lasso accused his Argentine counterpart of "putting his personal friendship and political identity" with Correa – who also has been found guilty of corruption – "ahead of the fraternal relationship between the peoples of Argentina and Ecuador."

Correa, who was president from 2007 to 2017 and has been granted asylum in Belgium, on Tuesday attended a meeting of a human rights group in Buenos Aires.

President Fernández responded on Tuesday by tweeting a public letter addressed to Lasso, in which he defended his government's actions and condemned the expulsion of its ambassador as "disproportionate."

"In our Embassy was a refugee who enjoyed full freedom of movement. Argentina had neither the duty of custody over her nor any capacity to limit her movements," Fernández wrote.

Duarte's departure from the Embassy "was beyond the will and the capacity of the Argentine diplomatic authorities to decide," he added.

"The disproportionate reaction of Mr. President [Lasso] to expel Argentina’s ambassador is what really hurts the good relationship that Argentines and Ecuadoreans will maintain in spite of him," he said, referring to the decision to expel envoy Gabriel Fuks from the country.

"The seriousness and injustice of that decision show that it is his [Lasso's] excessive behaviour that truly hurts the relationship between our peoples," Argentina’s president added.

Fernández also urged Lasso to "seek out those responsible in his administration who did not have the due diligence to prevent the free movement of a person whose capture they were demanding.”

Lasso later released his own letter to Fernández on Twitter, defending his decision to declare Fuks persona non grata and accusing the envoy of acting as a "political operator."

"Collaborating in the escape of a fugitive from justice contributes to impunity, an evil that affects the entire region," Lasso said.



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