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Ecuadorians wanted an action man. President Noboa has fulfilled that role — embassy raid included

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — As world leaders expressed shock and bewilderment over Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa’s decision to raid the Mexican embassy Last Friday, this extraordinarily unusual decision – and Noboa’s relative silence on the matter – is unlikely to endear him to his voters. In fact, this is exactly the kind of no-holds-barred crime fighting they expect and voted for.

Ecuadorians were looking for their man of action in the last election, tired of widespread corruption and theft, kidnappings, extortion and murders fueled by the growing presence of international drug cartels. Noboa, who often wears bulletproof vests, sunglasses and leather jackets as well as smart, casual white T-shirts, seems to fulfill this role so far. If arresting violators means violating an embassy, ​​so be it, Ecuadorians interviewed told The Associated Press over the weekend.

“President Noboa delivered a strong message to the nation,” said Carlos Galecio, political communications consultant and communications program coordinator at Ecuador’s Casa Grande University. “(It’s) a very powerful image boost.”

Police attempt to break into the Mexican Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, Friday, April 5, 2024, following Mexico’s granting of asylum to former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas, who had found refuge there. Police then forced their way into the embassy through another entrance. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

Noboa, 36, heir to one of Ecuador’s greatest fortunes, was sworn in as president in November after win unexpectedly a special election in August. He defeated the protégé of the left-wing ex-president Rafael Correa, who avoided serving a prison sentence linked to a corruption conviction by moving to Belgium and obtain asylum there.

Noboa inherited a country where people no longer leave their homes unless absolutely necessary, almost everyone knows a victim of crime, and many consider emigrating. Statistics confirm these decisions and experiences: last year was the bloodiest on record in Ecuador, with more than 7,600 homicides, compared to 4,600 the year before.

The causes of this spike are complex but largely revolve around cocaine. Gangs aided by cartels are fighting for control of the streets, prisons and drug routes to the Pacific. Shrinking state coffers, soaring debts, political infighting, and corruption have created funding gaps in social and law enforcement programs. And the COVID-19 pandemic has turned hungry children and unemployed adults into easy recruits for criminal groups.

Noboa responded by promising more equipment for the police and armed forces and the construction of prisons similar to those built by President Nayib Bukele in El Salvador, with high security, maximum security and supermax units. He also issued a decree labeling more than 20 criminal groups terrorist organizations and scheduled a referendum in April to ask voters to expand the military’s powers to patrol the streets and control prisons.

A supporter of former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas stands outside the detention center where he was taken after police broke into the Mexican embassy to arrest him, in Quito, Ecuador, on Saturday April 6, 2024. Glas, who served as vice president of Ecuador between 2013 and 2018, was convicted of corruption and had been taking refuge in the Mexican embassy since December.  (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

A supporter of former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas stands outside the detention center where he was taken after police broke into the Mexican embassy to arrest him, in Quito, Ecuador, on Saturday April 6, 2024. Glas, who served as vice president of Ecuador between 2013 and 2018, was convicted of corruption and had been taking refuge in the Mexican embassy since December. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

Results of a recent poll by Ecuador-based public opinion firm Cedatos showed that more than two-thirds of respondents approve of Noboa’s presidency and more than half support his decision to call voters to the polls.

Police entered the Mexican embassy in the capital Quito to arrest the former vice president Jorge Glas, a convicted felon and fugitive who had been living there since December. In his first comments on the operation, Noboa said Monday he had taken “exceptional decisions to protect national security, the rule of law and the dignity of a population that rejects any form of impunity for criminals, the corrupt or narcoterrorists.

“My obligation is to respect the decisions of the justice system, and we cannot allow convicted criminals involved in very serious crimes to be granted asylum,” which Noboa said would violate the Vienna Convention and other agreements international. In a statement posted to social platform X, Noboa did not mention Glas by name, but suggested he was at “imminent flight risk.”

Diplomatic premises are considered foreign territory and “inviolable” according to the Vienna Treaties and host country law enforcement is not permitted entry without the ambassador’s permission. Mexico plans to challenge the raid at the World Court in The Hague.

Yet Noboa’s show of strength quickly earned him praise at home.

“I support the actions of President Noboa. I think it’s a courageous act… and I think it will strengthen it,” said university professor Gabriela Sandoval. “The priority is to clean, sanitize, continue a process as important as that of the president Noboa to put the house in order.”

A military vehicle transports former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas from the detention center where he was held after police broke into the Mexican embassy to arrest him in Quito, Ecuador, Saturday, April 6 2024. Glas, who served as vice president of Ecuador between 2013 and 2018, was convicted of corruption and has been taking refuge in the embassy since December.  (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa).

A military vehicle transports former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas from the detention center where he was held after police broke into the Mexican embassy to arrest him in Quito, Ecuador, Saturday, April 6 2024. Glas, who served as vice president of Ecuador between 2013 and 2018, was convicted of corruption and has been taking refuge in the embassy since December. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa).

Ecuadorians will elect their president in February. Noboa is eligible for re-election.

Confidence in Noboa is such that business groups believe the global condemnation of the raid will not impact trade or the already thorny trade negotiations between Ecuador and Mexico, which represent a major obstacle to Ecuador’s interest in joining Latin America’s Pacific Alliance trade bloc.

“These political and current issues will pass one way or another, and then relations will return to normal,” said Roberto Aspiazu, vice president of the Ecuador-Mexico Binational Chamber. “Sooner or later this trade agreement will also become a reality because the negotiations are there and will have to be resumed at some point. »

However, the timing of diplomatic negotiations break with Mexico That could be particularly unfortunate for Ecuador and counterproductive to Noboa’s crime-fighting ambitions, said Will Freeman, a fellow in Latin American studies at the New York-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. .

A supporter of former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas protests as a military vehicle transports him from the detention center where he was held after his arrest at the Mexican Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, Saturday, April 6, 2024. Glas, who served as Ecuador's vice president between 2013 and 2018, was convicted of corruption and had been sheltering in the embassy since December.  (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

A supporter of former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas protests as a military vehicle transports him from the detention center where he was held after his arrest at the Mexican Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, Saturday, April 6, 2024. Glas, who served as Ecuador’s vice president between 2013 and 2018, was convicted of corruption and had been sheltering in the embassy since December. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

Ecuador was one of the quietest countries in Latin America until about four years ago, when Mexican and Colombian cartels expanded their established Ecuadorian operations, moving into coastal towns and operating ports world-class company to ship hundreds of millions of dollars of cocaine produced in neighboring Colombia. and Peru.

“Ecuadorian gangs are criminal powers in their own right, but they have brokered alliances with Mexico’s next-generation cartels in Sinaloa and Jalisco,” Freeman said. “In an ideal world, Noboa would seek cooperation from the Mexican government to combat the gangs and their international partners, but it is clear that with the breakdown in diplomatic relations, this is not happening.”

And while it remains unclear whether Noboa expected the global pushback his decision received, some of these criticisms may weigh more heavily than others.

The United States, which under the Noboa administration provided Ecuador with essential equipment and training to combat drug cartels, reiterated the importance of complying with international law after the raid. last week.

“The United States takes very seriously the obligation of host countries under international law to respect diplomatic missions,” said Brian Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. “We encourage Ecuador and Mexico to resolve their dispute amicably.”

Police stand guard at the entrance to the penitentiary where former Vice President Jorge Glas is being held, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Saturday, April 6, 2024. Ecuadorian police entered the exterior doors of the Mexican embassy in Quito, Friday evening, to arrest Glas, who had been living there since December.  (AP Photo/César Muñoz)

Police stand guard at the entrance to the penitentiary where former Vice President Jorge Glas is being held, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Saturday, April 6, 2024. Ecuadorian police entered the exterior doors of the Mexican embassy in Quito, Friday evening, to arrest Glas, who had been living there since December. (AP Photo/César Muñoz)

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Garcia Cano reported from Mexico City.

News Source : apnews.com
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