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Venezuela closes embassy in Ecuador to protest raid on Mexican embassy in Quito

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MEXICO CITY — Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro ordered the closure of his country’s embassy and consulates in Ecuador on Tuesday in solidarity with Mexico in its protest over a raid by Ecuadorian authorities on the Mexican embassy in Quito.

Maduro and other presidents participating in a virtual meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States expressed their support for Mexico’s request to have the United Nations suspend Ecuador from the world body over the April 5 raid. But Maduro was the only one to announce the recall of a diplomatic mission.

“The condemnation has been unanimous, total, absolute,” Maduro said, referring to the backlash Ecuador’s move has drawn. “No one today in this world comes out to defend this barbaric act.”

Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa had ordered authorities to raid the Mexican diplomatic outpost to arrest the country’s former Vice President Jorge Glas, a convicted criminal and fugitive who was holed up at the embassy since December. Mexico granted him asylum hours before the raid.

Police attempt to break into the Mexican embassy in Quito, Ecuador
Police attempt to break into the Mexican embassy in Quito, Ecuador, on April 5, following Mexico’s granting of asylum to former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas, who had sought refuge there.Dolores Ochoa / AP

The extraordinarily unusual use of force drew immediate condemnation from governments around the world, because diplomatic premises are considered foreign soil and “inviolable” under the Vienna treaties.

Noboa, who did not participate in Tuesday’s meeting, said last week that he authorized the raid “to protect national security.” His government has argued that Glas was wanted for his criminal convictions for corruption and not political reasons and has accused Mexico of violating the Vienna treaties by granting him asylum.

Mexico severed diplomatic relations with Ecuador immediately after the raid and recalled its diplomatic mission. It hoped to use the CELAC meeting to rally a unified front for its case both at the U.N. and before the International Court of Justice.

Honduras President Xiomara Castro, who currently leads CELAC, opened Tuesday’s meeting by reading a proposed statement condemning Ecuador’s actions. She then presented a video of Ecuadorian authorities breaking into Mexico’s Embassy, along with dramatic music.

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador followed, repeating his demand that Ecuador be suspended from the United Nations until it apologizes and promises to never do it again.

“If we don’t do this, we are not going to be able to live in a world ruled by norms, by laws,” López Obrador said. “We would be living in the world of the gorillas.”

The Mexican president cited Chile’s notorious authoritarian leader Augusto Pinochet who ruled from 1973 to 1990, and said even Pinochet did not raid Mexico’s embassy when Chilean dissidents sought refuge there. “Pinochet didn’t dare to invade our embassy, that fearsome dictator,” López Obrador said.

People wait to enter the Venezuelan embassy where Ecuadorian police stand guard in Quito, Ecuador
People wait to enter the Venezuelan embassy where Ecuadorian police stand guard in Quito, Ecuador, on Tuesday.Dolores Ochoa / AP

Maduro said he has ordered all diplomatic personnel back to Venezuela “until international law is expressly restored in Ecuador.”

Maduro said that Glas, who is now being held at a maximum-security prison in the port city of Guayaquil, “must be returned to the Mexican embassy and have his political asylum recognized.”

Noboa drew additional criticism Tuesday for not appearing at the virtual gathering of regional leaders. While CELAC leaders questioned his decision, he posted an Instagram video promoting improvements to law enforcement infrastructure and another one announcing an emergency declaration covering the country’s electricity sector amid hours-long power outages in Quito.

“He should have shown up and assumed responsibility for himself in front of Ecuador, in front of Latin America, in front of the Caribbean, in front of the world and he has not shown his face,” Maduro said. “I can say from Venezuela that he has gone into hiding and the people of Ecuador should know it.”

Mexico’s embassy in Quito appeared already closed Tuesday afternoon. Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Venezuela’s announcement.

Under Maduro’s 11-year presidency, more than 7.7 million Venezuelans have left their home country, and most have settled elsewhere in Latin America and in the Caribbean. Ecuador has the sixth largest concentration of Venezuelan migrants.

Ecuadorian officials and nongovernmental organizations that assist migrants estimate that 475,000 Venezuelans live in Ecuador. Of those more than 231,000 live permanently and legally there, according to Ecuador’s 2023 census.

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