Mexico’s president says his country is breaking diplomatic ties with Ecuador after embassy raid

QUITO, Ecuador — Mexico’s government ended diplomatic ties with Ecuador after police broke into the Mexican Embassy late Friday to arrest a former Ecuadorian vice president, an extraordinary use of force that shocked and mystified regional leaders and diplomats.

Ecuadorian police 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.

Alicia Bárcena, Mexico’s secretary of foreign relations, announced on Saturday that diplomatic personnel from the embassy in Ecuador will return to Mexico, supported by “friendly embassies.”

The raid prompted Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to announce the breaking of diplomatic relations with Ecuador 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.”

Nicaragua also decided to cut all diplomatic relations with Ecuador on Saturday, calling Ecuador’s actions “unusual” and “reprehensible” in a press release.

On Saturday, Glas was taken by armored vehicle from the attorney general’s office to an airport, where he boarded an aircraft for a flight to the port city of Guayaquil, 265 miles south of Quito. People who had gathered outside the prosecutor’s office yelled “strength” as the convoy of police and military vehicles moved off.

Ecuador’s corrections agency said Glas will remain in custody at a maximum-security facility in Guayaquil.

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.

The office of Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa defended the raid in a statement, saying “Ecuador is a sovereign nation” that will not “allow any criminal to stay free.” López Obrador fired back, calling Glas’ detention an “authoritarian act” and “a flagrant violation of international law and the sovereignty of Mexico.”

Bárcena posted on the social platform X that a number of diplomats suffered injuries during the break-in, adding that it violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Diplomatic premises are considered “inviolable” under the Vienna treaties and local law enforcement agencies are not allowed to enter without the permission of the ambassador. People seeking asylum have lived anywhere from days to years living 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.

The decision of Ecuadorian authorities was condemned by presidents, diplomats and a regional body on Saturday.

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.”

“In this context, it (the OAS) expresses solidarity with those who were victims of the inappropriate actions that affected the Mexican Embassy in Ecuador,” according to the statement released Saturday. The organization added that it deemed a meeting of its permanent council “necessary to address the issue,” but did not set a date.

Colombia called on Honduras, the pro tempore president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, to take action.

“In response to the urgent situation at the Embassy of Mexico in Quito, Colombia formally requested Honduras, the pro tempore presidency of CELAC, to convene a special meeting to address this serious issue related to the rupture of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” Colombia’s government said in a statement.

The foreign ministries of Latin American nations, including Argentina, Cuba and Brazil, released statements on Saturday condemning Ecuador’s actions.

López Obrador thanked global leaders for their acts of solidarity in a post on X, and said Mexico’s diplomats are being looked out for.

“We ask our compatriots to behave with great prudence in order to avoid harassment and not to fall into any provocation,” he said.

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 said Mexican diplomats were only waiting for the Ecuadorian government to offer the necessary guarantees for their return home.

Noboa became Ecuador’s president last year as the nation battled unprecedented crime tied to drug trafficking. After a group of armed individuals assaulted a TV station during a live broadcast in January, he declared the country in an “internal armed conflict” 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.

Ecuador’s ministries of foreign affairs and interior did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Former Ecuadorian ambassador Jorge Icaza told AP that the raid was illegal, but he added that it is also against the law to protect “a criminal who was punished by the Ecuadorian justice system in two prominent cases, which is also negative from the point of view of international norms.”

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

On Thursday, tensions escalated after López Obrador made statements that Ecuador considered “very unfortunate” about last year’s election. In response, the Ecuadorian government declared the Mexican ambassador persona non grata.