A former Ecuadorian minister convicted of corruption has fled to Venezuela after escaping from the Argentine embassy in Quito, where she had sought refuge for more than two years with her minor son, the Argentine government announced on Tuesday.
The former Minister of Transport and Public Works, Maria de los Angeles Duarte Pesantes, “presented herself at the Argentine embassy in Caracas” on Tuesday, the Argentine foreign ministry said.
The Ecuadorian government had reported in a statement on Monday that the former minister had fled, urging Argentina to provide explanations. Argentina’s ambassador to Ecuador, Gabriel Fuks, was “immediately summoned” to provide “more details” about Ms. Duarte’s flight, the same source said.
The former minister had taken refuge in the Argentine embassy in Quito in August 2020, after being sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption by an Ecuadorian court.
She had been convicted, along with former socialist President Rafael Correa (2007-2017) –who lives in exile in Belgium — and other former government officials, for her role in a scheme to extract nearly $7.6 million in bribes in exchange for state contracts, according to the prosecutors’ office.
Correa and his collaborators unanimously rejected the Ecuadorian judiciary’s decisions and claimed to be victims of political persecution.
In December 2022, Ecuador refused to grant a safe-conduct to Ms. Duarte that would have allowed her to leave the country and reach Argentina, whose government had granted her asylum.
The Ecuadorian government acknowledged at the time that that dispute was a “setback” in diplomatic relations between the two countries.