Ecuador denied entry Wednesday morning to Venezuelan opposition figure Lilian Tintori, traveling to meet and campaign with right-wing Ecuadorean presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso — an activity that is banned by the country’s immigration law.
Tintori, wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, arrived at the airport in Guayaquil from Miami at 1:30 a.m. local time Wednesday morning. On her social media accounts she reported that immigration authorities had retained her passport and denied her entry, a move she claimed amounted to a violation of her "human rights."
An official immigration document circulated online by local journalists showed that Tintori’s entry was denied for her failure to justify her immigration status and explain the reason for her visit.
According to Ecuador’s Human Mobility Law, “Temporary visitors in Ecuador will not be able to interfere in matters of Ecuador’s internal politics.” The law also states that foreigners can be deported for eight reasons, including for “being a temporary visitor in Ecuador who engages in issues of Ecuador’s internal politics.”
The law also outlines that lack of a valid visa when required or failure to justify immigration status — as in Tintori’s case — will result in “immediate departure of the inadmissible person” from the country “without the need for administrative processing.” It also states that such travelers can return to the country when the reason for which they were denied entry is resolved.
On social media, Tintori made references to her political motivations for visiting Ecuador, writing on her Facebook account that Ecuadoreans “have an opportunity for change” on April 2, referring to the date of the presidential runoff election between governing party candidate Lenin Moreno and opposition leader Guillermo Lasso. “They are not letting me enter because they know that change is coming to Ecuador,” she said in a video posted on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, referencing the Lasso's campaign slogan. “They are not letting me in because they do not want me to help my Ecuadorean brothers and sisters.”
In response to Tintori being denied entry, Lasso also confirmed that the Venezuelan had planned to enter the country to support his bid for president. “A few weeks ago we agreed that she would come for a few days to accompany Maria de Lourdes and I in this campaign,” Lasso said in a video message, referring to his wife, who stood beside him in the video.
In a press conference on Tintori’s case in Quito Wednesday, Interior Minister Diego Fuentes explained that when immigration authorities asked Tintori about the reason for her travels, she stated that she was “going to perform certain acts within a political agenda at the invitation of right-wing candidate Guillermo Lasso” and intended to enter with a tourist visa.
Fuentes stated that immigration authorities had acted in accordance with the law. He highlighted the article of the Human Mobility Law banning foreigners from participating in political activities and also pointed to a separate article of the same law stating that the Ecuadorean state has the power to “deny entry to a foreign person on the basis of an action or omission committed.”
Tintori, who arrived in Ecuador on an American Airlines flight from Miami, was put on a flight back to Miami at 6:45 a.m. local time Wednesday.
Fuentes confirmed that Tintori returned to Miami on the earliest available American Airlines flight. He welcomed Tintori to return to the country on a tourist visa if she intended to conduct tourist activities, saying, “she is invited with her tourist visa to carry out the activities she would like to carry out within the framework of the law and for the activist and political activities she must process the corresponding visa."
On her Twitter account, Tintori, who frequently describes Venezuela as a “dictatorship,” claimed that she was denied entry to Ecuador because the country is “complicit in (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro’s dictatorship.”
Leopoldo Lopez was jailed in 2013 for his role in violent protests that claimed the lives of 43 Venezuelans. Since then, Tintori and leaders from Lopez's right-wing Popular Will Party have been campaigning around the globe for his release, calling him and others involved in the violent protests "political prisoners."
Lasso, a former banker who came in distant second to front-runner Moreno in the first round of presidential elections last month, said the denial of Tintori into the country was evidence of “dictatorship.”
“Not allowing the entry of Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo Lopez, confirms the dictatorship Ecuador is living the dictatorship of a political party,” Lasso said in his video message.
Lasso also misleadingly referenced the article of the constitution that allows foreigners to vote — a civil right accorded to foreign residents “as long as they have resided legally in the country for at least five years,” according to the constitution — as well as the principle of “universal citizenship,” which promotes free movement to “transform the unequal relations between countries, especially those between North and South.” While Ecuador’s widely celebrated “no one is illegal” policy — applauded by the U.N. Refugee Agency — offers a framework to decriminalize irregular immigration status, not override other sections of the immigration law barring foreigners from interfering in local politics.
A high-profile case amid opposition protests in 2015 brought similar migration laws to light and offers a precedent for application of Ecuador’s law barring foreigners from participating in local politics. French-Brazilian academic Manuela Picq, living in Ecuador with a cultural exchange visa, was deported in August after participating in opposition protests that at times turned violent. Her visa was revoked, according to then-Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, for “carrying out political activities” not allowed under the cultural exchange immigration status. Picq’s case similarly sparked accusations of human rights violations from the ranks of the opposition, including Lasso’s running mate Andrez Paez, who accompanied Picq during the legal process leading up to her deportation.
Despite Lasso’s defense of the legality of Tintori’s planned visit, as the governor of Guayas in 1999, he ordered a foreigner be expelled for less. Months after the 1999 banking crisis — which Lasso is also accused of played a role in — the then-governor called for the deportation of Venezuelan economic analyst, Jose Luis Cordeiro. The Venezuelan analyst had criticized the economic policies of the government of then-President Jamil Mahuad, under whom Lasso went on to serve as minister of finance. Lasso argued at the time that Cordeiro’s statements showed a “lack of respect” against Mahuad, adding that “it is not possible to allow foreigners to threaten the national honor” of Ecuador.
Tintori’s main political activities have also including building relationships with other right-wing figures in the region, including conservative Argentine President Mauricio Macri and more recently, U.S. President Donald Trump.
Just weeks ago, she met Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Senator Marco Rubio in the White House. After the meeting, she thanked Trump on her Twitter account for “standing with the Venezuelan people.”