Who Is Jorge Glas, an Ecuadorean Politician Arrested at Mexico’s Embassy?


Mexico has severed diplomatic relations with Ecuador after Ecuadorean police officers on Friday arrested Jorge Glas, an Ecuadorean politician who had been granted refuge in Mexico’s embassy in Quito.

That arrest, which Mexico described as a “violation” of its sovereignty, capped days of growing tensions between the two Latin American countries. Ecuador has considered Mr. Glas a fugitive and said its police force was acting on an arrest warrant for Mr. Glas.

Here’s what to know about the politician at the center of the dispute.

Mr. Glas served in several ministerial roles under the longtime left-wing government of a former Ecuadorean president, Rafael Correa. Mr. Glas’s most notable role was as Mr. Correa’s vice president, a position he held from 2013 to 2017.

His term as vice president in the subsequent government, led by Lenín Moreno, lasted only a few months. In 2017, he was forced from office and sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty of receiving over $13.5 million dollars in bribes.

The bribes had involved Odebrecht, an international construction giant that admitted to paying bribes in more than a dozen countries. The corruption scandal implicated current and former officials in Latin America and has rocked its political establishment.

In 2020, a separate bribery case led to Mr. Glas being found guilty of accepting money in exchange for issuing public contracts between 2012 and 2016.

The case was closely watched, not only because of the involvement of Mr. Glas: among those eventually convicted of accepting some $8 million in bribes was Mr. Correa, the country’s magnetic but divisive former president. Both Mr. Correa and Mr. Glas were sentenced to eight years in prison, a conviction that Mr. Correa has claimed was politically motivated.

Mr. Glas was released early from prison in November 2022, after lawyers argued that he was not safe behind bars. Facing more charges from Ecuadorean prosecutors over the alleged embezzlement of public funds, he sought asylum from Mexico in December. For months, he has stayed on the Mexican embassy’s grounds in Quito.

The former vice president’s asylum status has for months been a growing point of contention between the two nations. Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry said in March that it had requested Mexico’s permission to arrest Mr. Glas.

In the days leading up to Mr. Glas’s arrest, the relationship between the two countries grew more strained after Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, appeared to question the legitimacy of Ecuador’s most recent presidential election, and publicly commented on the assassination last year of an Ecuadorean political candidate.

Ecuador on Thursday criticized Mr. López Obrador for commenting on the assassination and declared Mexico’s ambassador a “persona non grata,” or unwelcome. In response, Mexico said that it had instructed its ambassador to return to Mexico. In the same release, Mexico said it would grant Mr. Glas political asylum and condemned the increased presence of Ecuadorean authorities near the embassy.

Mexico has granted political asylum to other former officials in Latin American countries that have been accused of corruption, creating friction within the region. In 2019, it granted asylum to Evo Morales, the former president of Bolivia, and in 2022 to the family of Pedro Castillo, the former president of Peru.

In the aftermath of Ecuador’s arrest of Mr. Glas, local news reports showed two black cars, sirens blaring, driving away as police officers held back onlookers. Mexican officials immediately broke diplomatic relations with Ecuador, calling the seizure of Mr. Glas a violation of international law.

Ecuador’s government has said that the decision to arrest Mr. Glas was made because Mexico had abused its use of diplomatic immunities and privileges.

“The national government defends national sovereignty, without allowing anyone to interfere in the country’s internal matters,” said a statement from the Ecuador’s presidential office on Friday.

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