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Ecuador’s New Envoy, an Anticorruption Expert, Leads the UN Security Council in December

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José de la Gasca, Ambassador of Ecuador to the UN with Mónica Sánchez, Political Coordinator
Ambassador José de la Gasca of Ecuador, president of the Security Council in December, and Mónica Sánchez, the delegation’s political coordinator, Dec. 1, 2023. De la Gasca, a lawyer specializing in anticorruption work, arrived in his post last week. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Ecuador is concentrating on broader peace and security problems in the Mideast rather than taking a narrow focus on the Israel-Hamas war, as the Latin American country assumes the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council in December.

José Javier de la Gasca Lopez-Domínguez, Ecuador’s new permanent representative to the UN, as of Dec. 1, said the Council would meet on the Mideast — specifically on the “Palestinian question,” its standing agenda item — on Dec. 6. The members will also hear from the “investigations team” for accountability of the crimes committed by ISIL/Daesh in Syria that day.

The Council is also planning to hold a briefing with Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Mideast peace process, on Dec. 19. (The Council met privately on Dec. 4, at the request of the United Arab Emirates, on the war in Gaza.)

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“We will work closely with all interested parties to ensure that our work on this very important matter will continue this month and will respond to the events on the ground,” de la Gasca said in Spanish to reporters on Dec. 1 at the UN. (His comments were translated into English by the UN.) He did not mention work on the current war in Gaza as part of the Council’s agenda for December. When further probed by journalists if Ecuador planned to address “the violations of human rights” in Gaza, de la Gasca gave a general response “on the situation in the Middle East.”

“Ecuador has already made its position clear on the situation in the Middle East,” he said. “This will always be a position of respect for international law, respect for humanitarian law and therefore, the Security Council’s resolutions. In this regard, I think that all aspects under accountability will always have to fall under those principles that I’ve just mentioned.”

The Mideast is arguably the most deadly region in the world right now. The latest escalation by Israeli bombardment in southern Gaza continues to intensify tensions throughout the region, as the UN keeps warning about possible spillover of the war to other parts of the Mideast. The mounting civilian casualties in Gaza — 15,523 people have been killed since the Hamas massacre on Oct.7 — has pitched Arab countries against Israel, threatening an already fragile relationship between the country and some Arab nations.

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Apart from the Mideast, de la Gasca said Ecuador would be building on the program of other countries from Latin America and the Caribbean region by concentrating on threats to international peace and security, particularly transnational organized crime. De la Gasca, an anticorruption expert, is new to diplomacy. The Council’s session on the topic will be held on Dec. 7.

Security in Ecuador has worsened since 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Violent gangs took control of prisons, threatening both inmates and their families. By the UN’s count, the number of inmates has tripled in the last 13 years, as clashes between gangs have risen. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, more than 400 people, including police and prison wardens, have been killed in gang clashes in prisons. Ecuador’s new president, Daniel Noboa, promised to isolate its most hardened criminals on prison boats.

“It is important to totally isolate the violent criminals, who from prison generate terror and plan more crime,” Noboa, the son of a banana exporter and politician, Álvaro Noboa, told local reporters during his campaign.

The prison violence is fed by drug trafficking, according to the Ecuadorian Organized Crime Observatory, which has said that at least 3,600 people have been killed in drug-related face-offs. In August, Fernando Villavicencio, one of eight presidential aspirants, was assassinated outside his home in San Mateo, according to local reports. Villavicencio was not the only prominent politician killed in the build-up to the presidential election in August that brought Noboa, Ecuador’s youngest president and second-youngest national leader in the world, to power. (The y0ungest is Ibrahim Traoré of Burkina Faso.) A month before Villavicencio was killed, Agustín Intriago, the mayor of the port city of Manta, and Pedro Briones, leader of the Citizen Revolution Movement, were killed by gunmen.

Former President Guillermo Lasso dissolved the National Assembly and called for a presidential election to avoid impeachment. He was being probed over allegations that he enabled corruption at the state-owned oil-transportation company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana (Flopec). President Noboa, who campaigned on the promise to fight corruption and organized crime, and other elected officials will finish the 18 months left on Lasso’s government.

“Organized crime is a scourge in various regions of the world, including Latin America and the Caribbean,” de la Gasca said during the presser at UN headquarters on Dec. 1. “Ecuador has increasingly been a victim of this scourge. We believe that we need greater synergies between United Nations system bodies to favor international cooperation, and to ensure that we have the necessary tools to support national forces in each state. This will allow us to overcome emerging threats and increasing challenges.”

De la Gasca also said that the Council was holding a session this month on the “orderly withdrawal” of Monusco, the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government has asked the UN to expedite the withdrawal of its peacekeepers starting this month. Monusco took over a smaller UN peace operation in 2010 to help the country fend off deadly armed groups fighting over territory and natural resources.

“We will hold a briefing on the 11th of December looking ahead to the adoption of a resolution which will allow for the implementation of an orderly withdrawal plan,” de la Gasca said. The head of the UN mission, Bintou Keita, will brief the Council.

It is the first time in 31 years that Ecuador heads the Council as an elected member. De la Gasca said it was important for his country to make major strides in the 31 days it holds the presidency, the only time it has the rotating presidency in its two-year term. De la Gasca said this rare chance would be reflected in how Ecuador handles the Council’s business, concentrating on peaceful settlement of disputes, he said, and the protection of civilians in commemoration of the Geneva Conventions, the treaties guiding the treatment of civilians, prisoners of war and soldiers during war and conflicts. The 75th anniversary of the conventions will be celebrated next year.

Each month, PassBlue profiles UN ambassadors as their countries assume the Council presidency, along with an original podcast episode. Ecuador installed a new UN permanent representative just days before taking the Council helm. (Repeated attempts by PassBlue to interview de la Gasca went unanswered.)

Ecuador’s Ambassador to the UN: José Javier De La Gasca López-Domínguez
Since: December 2023
Languages: Spanish, English
Education: B.A. in political science and law at Santiago de Guayaquil Catholic University; M.A., criminalistics and forensic sciences from the University of Specialties Espíritu Santo, Ecuador.

His story, briefly: De la Gasca, 35, was appointed Ecuador’s permanent representative by the newly elected President Noboa. De la Gasca succeeded Hernán Pérez Loose, who occupied the position for less than a year. Before de la Gasca’s appointment, he was director of a law firm in his name from 2013 to 2023. He is an anticorruption crusader in his country and served as anticorruption secretary for the presidency of Ecuador in 2021.

Country’s Profile

President: Daniel Noboa
Foreign Affairs Minister: Gustavo Manrique Miranda
Type of Government: presidential, unicameral legislature
Year Ecuador Joined the UN: 1949
Years on the Security Council: 2023-2024
Population: 17.8 million
CO2 per capita emissions for 2019 (in tons): 2.3; US, in comparison, 14.7


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on Ecuador's Council presidency?

Damilola Banjo is a reporter for PassBlue. She has a master’s of science degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in communications and language arts from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She has worked as a producer for NPR’s WAFE station in Charlotte, N.C.; for the BBC as an investigative journalist; and as a staff investigative reporter for Sahara Reporters Media.

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Ecuador’s New Envoy, an Anticorruption Expert, Leads the UN Security Council in December
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2 Comments
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Garson
Garson
6 months ago

“the middle east is the most deadly region in the world” FALSE
There are on average 1000 casualties per day in Ukraine. And most likely 500.000 deaths for the 2 camps over the war period. The Middle East is far behind……

PassBlue
Admin
PassBlue
6 months ago
Reply to  Garson

Per the UN, “at least” 10,000 civilians have been killed in the war in Ukraine.

The Gaza war fatalities are estimated to be 15,000.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/11/1143852#:~:text=At%20least%2010%2C000%20civilians%2C%20including,Mission%20there%20said%20on%20Tuesday.

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