QUITO, Ecuador – Italian police discovered 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of cocaine in a diplomatic pouch that Ecuador made available to a theatrical artist, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño of Eucador told reporters on Feb. 9.
Authorities said two people have been detained, including the artist in question, Christian Loor.
“We were surprised and enormously upset” by the incident, Patiño said, adding that the second detainee was not an Ecuadoran diplomat.
A diplomatic pouch allows envoys to transport goods and correspondence between countries without being subjected to a search.
The pouch, typically containing correspondence or objects for official use that a country sends its missions abroad, is protected by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, which states they “cannot be opened or detained.”
Patiño did not say how Italian authorities detected the contraband drugs but did say the pouch had been inspected by Quito’s drug enforcement agency before leaving the country.
He speculated that the suspects had slipped the illicit drugs into the pouch, perhaps during a stopover in their travel, and said that an internal investigation had been launched.
Ecuador, situated between the world’s two biggest cocaine producers, Peru and Colombia, often is used as a transit point for traffickers seeking to transport drugs in the region.
The government was helping Loor’s theater show in an effort to promote tourism to Ecuador, Patiño said.
[AFP (Ecuador), 10/02/2012; Diario Hoy (Ecuador), 10/02/2012]