Relations between Argentina and Ecuador were more than battered this Tuesday after a harsh exchange of letters between presidents Alberto Fernández and Guillermo Lasso. The background? A former minister of Rafael Correa, convicted of corruption, who after three years taking refuge in the Argentine embassy in Quito appeared in Venezuela.

“Generating an incident by putting the ideology of its officials ahead of what our peoples need is a real mistake,” Lasso wrote in his letter to Fernández, revealed by Clarín.

“You should not have authorized the granting of political asylum to a person sentenced by the Ecuadorian courts, since that is expressly prohibited by Article III of the Caracas Convention, even when they wanted to give it ‘a humanitarian character.'”

María de los Ángeles Duarte Pesantes, Correa’s Minister of Public Works between 2010 and 2014, was sentenced to eight years in prison for having been part of a gang that bribed contracts with the State, a maneuver that involved 7.3 million dollars. In August 2020, the former minister, who has an Argentine minor son, appeared at the Argentine embassy and asked for refuge. She was there until, days ago, she left the Argentine diplomatic legation and managed to reach Venezuela, where she met with the Argentine ambassador.

The Ecuadorians, convinced that Gabriel Fuks, the Argentine ambassador in Quito, provided logistical support to Duarte Pesantes to flee the country, expelled the Argentine diplomatic representative. Buenos Aires responded by doing the same with the Ecuadorian. This week, the tension escalated to the level of the two presidents. The first spark was generated by Fernández, who sent a letter that Lasso considered offensive.

“The excessive reaction of the president to expel the Argentine ambassador is what truly hurts the relationship of our peoples,” Fernández wrote to his counterpart, in a letter that he posted on his social networks.

“President Guillermo Lasso, receive these words with the usual sincere affection. Make an effort not to mix this incident resulting from the inexperience of Ecuadorian State officials with the love that binds our peoples,” added the Argentine head of state.

Lasso did not let those words from Fernández go by. “Among Heads of State there is no room for the condescension that you show when suggesting that my decision to declare your former ambassador persona non grata could have been taken without sufficient reflection and recommending that I ‘correct the error’.”

Lasso’s fury with Fernández, with whom he had initially established a good relationship beyond their political differences, is heightened by Correa’s presence in Buenos Aires. Lasso is going through a time of serious political weakness, with calls for his removal and cracks in his support base.

The former Ecuadorian president attended a meeting of the Puebla Group and mocked Lasso: “I apologize for the injustice of a government that has become a laughing stock on the continent. We will soon recover Ecuador for the Great Homeland.”

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