Dec 21, 2013

Strained relations between Panama and Ecuador

I’ve recently started following the diplomatic crisis arising between Ecuador and Panama over Ecuador’s  seizure of the vessel “Doria” captured in international waters on October 13th.  The vessel, which allegedly is under Panamanian flag, was found to be carrying 700 kilos of refined cocaine and was being crewed by 5 people of varied nationalities. Panama has requested return of the vessel, but Ecuador continues to detain it, claiming the origin of the vessel has not yet been confirmed. 

Last week, Panama’s Chancellor, Fernando Fabrega,  pressured for the vessel’s return, claiming the ship and its crew were being detained “in violation of the United Nations convention regarding sea rights”.   Panama also accuses Ecuador of retaliation, because of President Martinelli's grant of political asylum to Galo Lara, an Ecuadoran ex-legislator sentenced to 10 years in prison in that country for his complicity in a triple crime in the Los Rios province.

Ecuadoran officials deny a connection between the two incidents, stating Ecuador doesn’t participate in the exchange of delinquents.  They’ve also posed questions as to why Panama would send its Vice Chancellor, Mayra Arosema, to their country to defend the rights of narcotraffickers.  They maintain they will release the vessel to Panama once Panama’s authority is established.  To date, they cite doubts of Panama's claim to the vessel based upon recovered evidence that the boat carries flags from Panama, Columbia, and Venezuela, and that the provided Panamanian navigation patent doesn’t correspond to the characteristics of the Doria, but rather to a fishing ship.  Sonia Barcia, the Ecuadoran Fiscal de Manabi, also indicated there were discrepancies regarding the Doria’s motor, which doesn't contain the identification numbers indicated on the Panamanian documentation.  They postulate that Panama’s jurisdiction over the vehicle hasn’t been legally justified. Ecuador has solicited information from four other countries regarding the vessel's jurisdiction.  They also requested additional information from Panama, which the latter hasn’t provided.  Ms. Barcia indicates they've requested international penal law assistance regarding the matter, given that legal jurisdiction can't be established.  

Panama claims everything required to document its juridiction has been submitted. Panama’s Chancellor, Fernando Fabrega, stated that interviews in Ecuador gave Vice Chancellor Arosemena the strong impression that cooperation would be related to an upcoming new petition for reevaluation of the political asylum granted Mr. Lara.

Ecuador insists the issue of Galo Lara’s expedition request is a separate matter which they will continue to pursue separately.