Mexico Severs Diplomatic Ties With Ecuador After Police Storm Its Embassy to Arrest Politician

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) -- Mexico's government severed diplomatic ties with Ecuador after police broke into the Mexican Embassy to arrest a former Ecuadorian vice president, an extraordinary use of force that shocked and mystified regional leaders and diplomats.

Ecuadorian police late Friday broke through the external doors of the embassy in the capital, Quito, to arrest Jorge Glas, who had been residing there since December. Glas sought political asylum at the embassy after being indicted on corruption charges.

The raid prompted Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to announce the breaking off of diplomatic relations with Ecuador on Friday evening, while his government's foreign relations secretary said the move will be challenged at the World Court in The Hague.

"This is not possible. It cannot be. This is crazy," Roberto Canseco, head of the Mexican consular section in Quito, told local press while standing outside the embassy right after the raid. "I am very worried because they could kill him. There is no basis to do this. This is totally outside the norm."

On Saturday, Glas was taken from the attorney general's office in Quito to the port city of Guayaquil, where he will remain in custody at a maximum-security prison. People who had gathered outside the prosecutor's office yelled "strength" as he left with a convoy of police and military vehicles.

Glas' attorney, Sonia Vera, told The Associated Press that officers broke into his room and he resisted when they attempted to put his hands behind his back. She said the officers then "knocked him to the floor, kicked him in the head, in the spine, in the legs, the hands," and when he "couldn't walk, they dragged him out."

Vera said the defense team was not allowed to speak with Glas while he was at the prosecutor's office, and it is now working to file a habeas corpus petition.

Authorities are investigating Glas over alleged irregularities during his management of reconstruction efforts following a powerful earthquake in 2016 that killed hundreds of people. He was convicted on bribery and corruption charges in other cases.

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld on Saturday told reporters that the decision to enter the embassy was made by President Daniel Noboa after considering Glas' "imminent flight risk" and exhausting all possibilities for diplomatic dialogue with Mexico.

Mexico granted Glas asylum hours before the raid. Sommerfeld said "it is not legal to grant asylum to people convicted of common crimes and by competent courts."

Alicia Bárcena, Mexico's secretary of foreign relations, on Friday posted on the social media platform X that a number of diplomats suffered injuries during the break-in, which she said violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Sommerfeld did not address the injury claims.

Diplomatic premises are considered foreign soil and "inviolable" under the Vienna treaties and host country law enforcement agencies are not allowed to enter without the permission of the ambassador. People seeking asylum have lived anywhere from days to years at embassies around the world, including at Ecuador's in London, which housed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for seven years because British police could not enter to arrest him.

REGIONAL CRITICISM

The break-in was condemned by presidents, diplomats and a regional body on Saturday.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that "the United States condemns any violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and takes very seriously the obligation of host countries under international law to respect the inviolability of diplomatic missions." He called on both countries to resolve their difference.

Honduran President Xiomara Castro, writing on X, characterized the raid as "an intolerable act for the international community" and a "violation of the sovereignty of the Mexican State and international law" because "it ignores the historical and fundamental right to asylum."

The Organization of American States in a statement reminded its members, which include Ecuador and Mexico, of their "obligation" to not "invoke norms of domestic law to justify non-compliance with their international obligations."

Bárcena on Friday said Mexico would take the case to the International Court of Justice "to denounce Ecuador's responsibility for violations of international law." She also recalled Mexican diplomats.

ECUADOR PRESIDENT FACES REELECTION NEXT YEAR

Noboa became Ecuador's president last year as the nation battled unprecedented crime tied to drug trafficking. He declared the country in an "internal armed conflict" in January and designated 20 drug-trafficking gangs as terrorist groups that the military had authorization to "neutralize" within the bounds of international humanitarian law.

Will Freeman, a fellow of Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the decision to send police to Mexico's embassy raises concerns over the steps Noboa is willing to take to get reelected. His tenure ends in 2025 as he was only elected to finish the term of former President Guillermo Lasso.

"I really hope Noboa is not turning more in a Bukele direction," Freeman said, referring to El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, whose tough-on-crime policies have been heavily criticized by human rights organizations. "That's to say less respectful of rule of law in order to get a boost to his popularity ahead of the elections."

Freeman added that whether Glas was abusing diplomatic protection is a "separate issue" from the decision to send police to the embassy.

"We see a pattern of that in Latin America with politicians abusing embassies and foreign jurisdictions, not to flee prosecution but to flee accountability," he said.

The Mexican Embassy in Quito remained under heavy police guard after the raid -- the boiling point of recent tensions between Mexico and Ecuador.

Vera, Glas' attorney, said she fears "something could happen" to him while in custody considering the track record of the country's detention facilities, where hundreds of people have died during violent riots over the past few years. Those killed while in custody include some suspects in last year's assassination of a presidential candidate.

"In Ecuador going to jail is practically a death sentence," Vera said. "We consider that the international political and legal person responsible for the life of Jorge Glas is President Daniel Noboa Azín."