Amid migrant crisis, Ecuador expels Venezuela ambassador, calls country ‘murderous’

Ecuador President Lenin Moreno addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018.
Ecuador President Lenin Moreno addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018. AP

The fight over the scale of Venezuela’s exodus escalated Thursday when Ecuador said it was ejecting Venezuela’s ambassador, calling that country’s administration “corrupt, murderous and lying.”

The reaction came after Venezuela Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez on Wednesday accused Ecuador President Lenín Moreno of “lying” about the number of Venezuelan migrants pouring into that country.

During his Sept. 25 speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Moreno had said that his nation has received more than 6,000 Venezuelan migrants a day and that “children are arriving with measles, diphtheria and polio.”

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On Wednesday, in a wide-ranging press conference, Rodríguez seized on those statements and said it would take “140 busloads per day for seven years” to reach the number of Venezuelan migrants that Ecuador claims to have.

Without mentioning Moreno by name, he said he “couldn’t believe that someone could be such a liar, even at the podium of the United Nations.”

In a terse statement Thursday, Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry said it “would not tolerate the disrespect of our authorities.”

“Even so, Ecuador, faithful to its democratic and humanitarian principles, will keep offering assistance to Venezuelans citizens who enter the country,” the ministry added.

Ecuador’s Communications Secretariat was less diplomatic, posting a statement on Twitter saying Rodriguez’s statements were proof that the “corrupt, murderous and lying socialism of the 21st century is still alive in Venezuela and producing the most massive migration in [Venezuela’s] history.”

The government also said that more than 1 million Venezuelans have passed through Ecuador and 300,000 live there — 60,000 in the capital of Quito.

Venezuelan Ambassador Carol Josefina Delgado was given 72 hours to leave the country.

The United Nations says more than 2.3 million Venezuelans are now living abroad amid one of the largest migratory and humanitarian crises in the hemisphere’s recent history.

Venezuela has accused the international community and its neighbors of exaggerating about the exodus as part of a broader plot to destabilize the presidency of Nicolás Maduro.

For years, Venezuela and Ecuador were staunch allies, as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa helped build regional organizations that represented the hemisphere’s leftist ideals.

Moreno had been Correa’s vice president but has radically shifted the direction of the country since taking power last year — including barring Correa from running for office again.