Ecuadorians wanted a man of action. President Noboa has fulfilled that role, including the assault on the embassy.

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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — While world leaders have expressed shock and bewilderment over Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa’s decision to The Mexican embassy is attacked last Friday, the extraordinarily unusual move (and Noboa’s relative silence on the matter) is unlikely to hurt him with his constituents. In fact, it’s 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 elections, fed up with widespread corruption and the robberies, kidnappings, extortions and murders fueled by the growing presence of international drug cartels. Noboa, who often sports bulletproof vests, sunglasses and leather jackets, as well as the occasional smart-casual white T-shirt, so far appears to be filling that role. If stopping lawbreakers means breaking into an embassy, ​​so be it, Ecuadorians interviewed over the weekend told The Associated Press.

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

Noboa, 36, heir to one of Ecuador’s largest fortunes, was sworn in as president in November after unexpectedly winning a special election in August. He defeated former leftist president Rafael Correa’s protégé, who avoided serving a prison sentence related to a corruption conviction by moving to Belgium and secure asylum there.

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

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

Noboa has 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 as terrorist organizations and scheduled a referendum in April to ask voters to expand the military’s powers to patrol the streets and control prisons.

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 Quito, the capital, to arrest the former vice president Jorge Glas, a convicted criminal and fugitive who had lived there since December. In his first comments on the operation, Noboa said Monday that he has taken “exceptional decisions to protect national security, the rule of law and the dignity of a population that rejects any type of impunity for criminals, corrupt people or narco-terrorists.”

“My obligation is to comply with the rulings of the justice system, and we could not allow asylum to be given to convicted criminals involved in very serious crimes,” which, Noboa argued, would violate the Vienna Convention and other international agreements. In a statement posted on the social platform

Diplomatic premises are considered foreign soil and “inviolable” according to the Vienna treaties and host country law enforcement agencies cannot enter without the ambassador’s permission. Mexico plans to challenge the raid at the World Court in The Hague.

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

“I am in favor of President Noboa’s actions. I think it is a brave act… and I think he is going to strengthen it,” said university professor Gabriela Sandoval. “The priority is to clean, sanitize, continue with a process as important as that of President Noboa to put the house in order.”

Ecuadorians will vote for president in February. Noboa is eligible to run for re-election.

Confidence in Noboa is such that business groups think global condemnation of the attack will not affect trade or the already thorny trade deal negotiations between Ecuador and Mexico, which represent a key barrier to Ecuador’s interest in joining the trade bloc. the Pacific Alliance of Latin America.

“These political and current issues will somehow pass and then relations will return to normal,” said Roberto Aspiazu, vice president of the Ecuador-Mexico Binational Chamber. “Sooner or later, that trade agreement is also going to be a reality because the negotiation is there and it has to be resumed at some point.”

Still, the moment of the diplomatic meeting break with Mexico It could be particularly unfortunate for Ecuador and counterproductive to Noboa’s crime-fighting ambitions, said Will Freeman, a Latin American studies researcher at the New York-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations.

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, setting up shop in coastal cities and exploiting world-class ports to ship hundreds of millions of dollars of cocaine produced in neighboring Colombia. and Peru.

“Ecuadorian gangs are criminal powerhouses in their own right, but they have negotiated alliances with the Mexican Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels,” Freeman said. “In an ideal world, Noboa would seek the cooperation of the Mexican government to combat the gangs and their international partners, but clearly, with the breakdown of diplomatic relations, that is not happening.”

And while it’s unclear whether Noboa expected the global backlash his decision received, some of that criticism may outweigh others.

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

“The United States takes seriously the obligation that host countries have 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 difference amicably.”


García Cano reported from Mexico City.

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