The Government of Ecuador declared on Tuesday the ambassador of Argentina in Quito, Gabriel Fuks, persona non grata after it was confirmed the escape of a former Ecuadorian minister, sentenced for corruption, from the Argentine diplomatic legation in the South American country where she was a refugee since August 12, 2020.
Maria de los Angeles Duarte, former Minister of Transport and Public Works between 2015 and 2017, during the government of then President Rafael Correa (2007-2017), left the embassy over the weekend without the knowledge of the staff.
The embassy kept Duarte under its jurisdiction as a “guest for humanitarian reasons.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility informed the decision to declare Fuks persona non grata through a statement in which it considered that “the trust and good faith that should prevail in the relationship between both States have been violated.”
It pointed out that the Ecuadorian decision is based on Article 9 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
“The Foreign Ministry reiterates the firm commitment of the Ecuadorian State to act by the principles of International Law and to permanently watch over the high interests of the country, respect for sovereignty and the Rule of Law, and against impunity,” he stressed.
In statements to journalists, Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguín complemented that Fuks has been given a deadline to leave Ecuador since there has been no clear explanation about Duarte’s escape.
“We are very sorry to reach this point, but the inconsistencies in some of the information related to the situation of Mrs. María de Los Ángeles Duarte have made us take this decision,” Holguín said.
The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry informed on the night of March 13 about the escape of the former minister from the embassy. This situation led to filing a complaint to Argentina and demand information delivery.
Within the framework of this impasse, the Argentinean ambassador to Ecuador, Gabriel Fuks, was urgently summoned to know the details of the situation.
At the same time, the National Police activated the search and capture protocols for the former official.
Duarte had been a refugee in the Argentine embassy for more than two and a half years to avoid going to jail since, in July 2020, she was sentenced to eight years for acts of corruption in a bribery case.
According to the Foreign Ministry, there is no record that Duarte has left Ecuador regularly; however, the Embassy of Argentina in Caracas, Venezuela, confirmed that the former minister “showed up” this Tuesday at its diplomatic headquarters.
In December 2022, Argentina granted asylum to the former minister, with which it was expected to obtain safe conduct for her to leave the country; but the Ecuadorian government denied such recourse.
In a message published on her Twitter account, Duarte claimed to be politically persecuted and pointed out that she had to leave the embassy “under risk”.
“I decided to leave the embassy because, by denying me the safe conduct that corresponded to me as a political asylum seeker, according to the Caracas Convention of 1954, and preventing my safe exit (safe conduct), the Ecuadorian government turned me into its political hostage,” Duarte posted.