The Government of Ecuador continues to put together the puzzle of the escape from the Argentine embassy in Quito of María de los Ángeles Duarte, minister during the Government of Rafael Correa and sentenced for corruption. Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguín was summoned on Wednesday by the National Assembly to give explanations. He revealed details of the communications he had since Monday, March 13, with her Argentine peer, Santiago Cafiero, who told him that Duarte had escaped from the residence. “In the best of cases there was negligence and in the worst of cases there was complicity,” shot the Ecuadorian foreign minister. From Argentina, meanwhile, the strategy has been to deny the accusations and tone down the dispute at the same time.
In a Twitter thread, Foreign Minister Cafiero He said that “Argentina’s deep appreciation for the people of Ecuador does not change with this temporary disagreement. We are sister nations united by history and by a common future”. He then referred to a “difference of opinion” between Buenos Aires and Quito on the Duarte case, which became evident when the Lasso government denied the former Correa minister safe-conduct. “Discrepancy on which at all times we express willingness to frame the action in international law, which offers solution mechanisms for these controversies,” she said. On Thursday, the government spokesperson, Gabriela Cerruti, followed the same line. She spoke of the “dear Ecuadorian people” and said that Argentina “has nothing to do with Ecuador’s security issues.” Opposition deputies have requested the presence of Cafiero in Congress so that he can explain what happened in Ecuador.
According to the timeline that the Ecuadorian government drew up, last weekend there was a barbecue at the Argentine diplomatic residence in the capital. According to the version of Gabriel Fuks, the Argentine ambassador expelled by Quito, it was to fire the mission’s defense attaché. “A series of inconsistencies in the information then begin,” says Holguín. “The roast was first on Saturday and then on Friday. He did not remember when they last saw María de los Ángeles Duarte, if it was Saturday or Sunday, which could have been Thursday”, explained the foreign minister before the legislators.
The Ecuadorian government is convinced that Duarte fled on Friday, to appear later in Caracas, where he appeared before the Argentine ambassador in that city, Oscar Laborde. What he doesn’t know yet is the time and how he did it. The suspicion is that he used one of the cars that drove in and out of the building on the night of the defense attaché’s reception, some of which had diplomatic license plates. It took 72 hours from the flight until the Argentine foreign minister informed the Ecuadorian authorities of what had happened, although the tension began at the moment when former ambassador Fuks went to the presidential palace in Quito to give explanations. “In a haughty manner, Ambassador Fuks interrupted me by pointing out that he is not anyone’s jailer and neither did he have the role of watching over anyone in the residence,” said Ecuador’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luis Bayas, when asked for details of how Duarte fled the residence.
When the former official requested refuge in the Argentine embassy in August 2020, she was evading an eight-year prison sentence for bribery. “It entered international jurisdiction, so it was up to the Argentine Republic to comply with the supervision of the situation of Mrs. Duarte,” Holguín warned. The foreign minister also referred to the asylum that Argentina granted her for humanitarian reasons – and not political ones – in December 2022, in which he requested a safe-conduct so that she could leave the country. The Government of Guillermo Lasso denied it.
The deep appreciation of Argentina for the people of Ecuador does not change with this conjunctural disagreement. We are sister nations united by history and by a common future.
– Santiago Cafiero (@SantiagoCafiero) March 15, 2023
The issue escalated to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, because Argentina requested precautionary measures for Duarte and her son, who has an Argentine father and passport and lived with her in the embassy. One of the reasons that the Government of Alberto Fernández argued was that there was no contact between the minor and his father; However, when Fuks was consulted about the visits to the embassy, he said that “Duarte had no restriction on visits, that they could be done at any time and at any time, that the father of Duarte’s son visited him frequently,” Bayas explained. . In fact, on March 10, the man was at the residence, the deputy minister added.
This Thursday, Holguín returned to the subject in a television interview. He said that “Ecuador was very respectful of them (the Argentines) and based the trust that they had custody of Mrs. Duarte over their jurisdiction.” “They betrayed that trust,” he said.
The diplomatic escalation with Argentina opened a new front of conflict for Lasso, who is going through a bad political moment. This Wednesday, the correista bench of UNES, the Christian Social Party and part of the Democratic Left collected the necessary signatures to send the formal request for impeachment to the president, accused by legislators for alleged omissions in a corruption scheme in public companies . The crisis has also given wings to Rafael Correa.
In an interview with the Colombian media Time, the former president said that Duarte was used by the Lasso government to ask for support in exchange for granting him a safe-conduct. “She She has sent us messages: if you support me in this, we could free her from her, and what Maria did was leave the embassy,” he said. Correa will be in Buenos Aires on Thursday of next week, where she will participate in the World Forum on Human Rights. A day later, in the Dominican Republic, Lasso and Fernández will meet face to face in the framework of the Ibero-American Summit of heads and heads of state.
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