Will the diplomatic spat between Ecuador and Mexico be a boon for Noboa?

Ecuador’s decision to send police officers to the Mexican embassy to arrest politicians who had taken refuge there heightened tensions between the two countries, which were already at odds, but was a political challenge for Ecuador’s president. It might be a boon.

President Daniel Novoa faces declining approval ratings amid escalating violence in the weeks ahead of a referendum that could affect his re-election prospects next year. A conflict with Mexico, with which he has suspended diplomatic relations, may be just what he needs.

The arrested politician, Jorge Gras, is a former Ecuadorian vice president who was sentenced to prison on corruption charges and had been living at the Mexican embassy in Quito since December. Then on Friday, Mexico granted him asylum and Ecuadorian police entered the country.

Noboa’s office said the arrests were proceeded because Mexico abused the immunity and privileges granted to diplomatic missions, but the message it sent was that Noboa’s efforts to combat violence and corruption in Ecuador This was in line with his strong stance.

The 36-year-old center-right leader took power in November after President Guillermo Lasso, who is facing impeachment proceedings over embezzlement charges, called for early elections. Mr. Novoa’s term will run until May 2025, the remainder of Mr. Lasso’s term.

Mr. Novoa’s ability to demonstrate that he can restore law and order to this country of about 18 million people could be crucial to his re-election, which has enabled the country’s gangs and criminal gangs. It means fighting corruption within the government. analysts say.

Many experts say these political aspirations likely explain the arrests at the embassy, ​​with the president taking a tough stance against impunity.

Ecuadorian political analyst Agustín Burbano de Lara said: “He did something like this to try to change all the negative talking points that were affecting him and try to turn the conversation in his favor.” I did,” he said.

Mr. Glass held various cabinet positions under left-wing President Rafael Correa, most notably as vice president. In 2017, he was forced out of his job and sentenced to six years in prison for accepting bribes. A separate bribery conviction in 2020 implicated him and Correa, and both were sentenced to eight years in prison.

Grass, who was released in 2022, eventually sought asylum in Mexico, a move that strained relations between Ecuador and Mexico.Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in march It said it had requested permission from Mexico to arrest Glass.

Noboa is very popular, poll show He said his approval rating had fallen 11 points in recent months, from 85% to 74%, as violence escalated in Ecuador.

Noboa declared an internal conflict after the coastal city of Guayaquil was overrun by gang violence in January, an unusual step taken when the state was under attack by armed groups. He deployed the military to combat a surge in gang violence linked to drug trafficking, allowing soldiers to patrol the streets and prisons.

Although aggressive responses initially reduced violence and provided a precarious sense of security in places like Guayaquil, that stability did not last long.137 murders, kidnappings and extortion occurred in Ecuador during Easter holidays It got worse.

Ecuadorians are expected to vote in a referendum within two weeks to allow the government to step up security measures by legislating heavier prison sentences for some crimes and a stronger military presence.

Experts say it is too early to tell whether Gras’ arrest will benefit Novoa at the polls, but several Ecuadorians said Sunday they supported the move.

“Mexico treats Ecuadorians like fools and gives asylum to all those convicted,” said Danilo Alvarez, 41, a salesman from Guayaquil, one of the country’s most violent cities. ) speaks.

Ecuador itself famously once granted asylum and protection in one of its embassies. In 2012, when Correa was president, he housed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in his London embassy for seven years.

Alvarez said a few years ago, robbers broke into his home, bound his hands and feet and held a gun to his head. It took several months for him to be able to sleep well again.

However, not all citizens agreed with the arrest.

“This is a complete disregard for international law,” said Delfa Mantilla, 62, a former teacher. “It seems like President Noboa did it without empathy and as a product of the egos of rich people.”

Some were concerned about the impact of the diplomatic dispute on ordinary people. Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians migrate to the United States through Mexico each year, but both countries face a surge in cross-border crime, with many Mexican cartels operating out of Ecuador.

“Part of me thinks that’s fine because Mr. Glass should go to prison,” said Mario Zalamer, a 34-year-old commercial engineer. However, he added, “Currently, thousands of Ecuadorians are moving on foot through Mexico to immigrate to the United States. We don’t know how much this will affect them.”

Even though many Ecuadorians support his arrest at the embassy, ​​Noboa could likely deepen diplomatic rifts and weaken relations with other countries in the region.

Honduras, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina rallied behind Mexico and criticized the arrests. The Nicaraguan government characterized the arrests as “neo-fascist political barbarism” and announced it would suspend diplomatic relations with Ecuador. Statement shared by state media.

“The United States condemns any violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and takes very seriously the obligation of host states under international law to respect the inviolability of diplomatic missions,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. ”

Mr Miller called on both countries to resolve their differences.

Jose Maria Leon Cabrera and Tully Ponce Contributed to the report.

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