The situation has turned from bad to worse to absurd in Peru, where the Ecuadorian ambassador is being forbidden from reentering the country due to an altercation at a supermarket in Lima two weeks ago. Long story short, Rodrigo Riofrio got into a fight with a woman and her daughter at his local supermarket on April 21, after they allegedly cut him in line. Riofrio initially insisted that he was the one who'd been assaulted, but a security tape later showed him punching, kicking and swatting the women with a magazine suggested otherwise. As if the incident itself weren't bad enough, it dredged up the long held tension between the two countries, who only singed a peace accord in 1998 after over a century of border wars. One thing led to another, and a week after the supermarket brawl, both countries recalled their respective ambassadors.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Peru's Foreign Affairs Ministry now find themselves at a stalemate. On Monday, Ecuador's Correa offered a bargain. Actually, it was sort of the opposite of a bargain, since Correa framed the conditions almost as if they were terms for surrender. "If Ambassador Rodrigo Riofrio cannot return to Lima, with heartache, the Peruvian ambassador, Javier Leon, will not return to Quito," said President Correa during his weekly media address. The positive way to interpret that line: Correa will allow Peru's ambassador back into Quito if Riofrio can return to Lima.
In the context of his recent foreign relations, Correa is really making a threat. He's no stranger to tossing ambassadors out of the country. He kicked out the American ambassador to Ecuador in 2011, after a WikiLeaks cable revealed that she "was aware of acts of corruption by the police high command." This was just three years after the Colombian ambassador received the same treatment during the climax of a border conflict. But this time, the strong man act doesn't seem to be working. Riofrio already tried the apologetic man act, telling the press that he was sorry for the "personal incident." Correa, meanwhile, continues to frame his ambassador as the "victim of aggression."
It's very unclear where things go from here. This could be the beginning of a longer standoff. Both countries certainly have the patience. After all, they were more or less at war with each other since the late 19th century. Experts think Correa should just grow up. "It's important that Correa fights for truth and justice, but at this point, he's putting the security and credibility of the state at risk," Michel Levi, coordinator of the Andean Center of International Studies at the Universidad Andina, told Bloomberg News on Monday. "The relevant thing here is that there's a diplomatic crisis created by a street fight." A street fight between an ambassador and two women. In a supermarket.