Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who had spoken up against organized crime and corruption in the country, was assassinated at a campaign rally in Quito on Wednesday, highlighting a surge in gang violence in the country which has left dozens dead in recent months.
Villavicencio, a former journalist who had said that Ecuador was transforming into a “narco-state”, was gunned down in the wake of tending to his supporters at a campaign event in the national capital, local news sources detailed.
Numerous shots can be heard in a video of the episode after Villavicencio is seen entering a vehicle subsequent to leaving the event venue.
One suspect was killed in a shoot-out with police, while six others have been arrested, the principal legal officer’s office said.
The incident has drawn quick judgment from other presidential candidates, with some of them calling for serious discipline against the culprits. As per the police, violence in the country has in recent times gotten out of hand.
The country’s President Guillermo Tether — who isn’t running for re-election — said he was “shocked” by the occurrence and promised that organized crime in the country will now face the “full weight of the law.”
Lasso has ordered a state of emergency for the next 60 days, allowing him to mobilize the national military across the country—the presidential elections though will proceed as scheduled.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Michael Fitzpatrick expressed his condolences, saying:
“I am deeply shocked to learn of the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, presidential candidate and fighter against the corrupt and narco-criminals who have done so much damage to Ecuador…The US Government strongly condemns this attack and offers urgent investigative assistance.”
While police have a few suspects in care, the identity of the assassinators has not yet been unveiled. The is strong speculation of the involvement of the country’s drug cartels who former journalist vowed to lock up. According to reports, Villavicencio said he had received death threats from several groups including one linked to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.
The Wikipedia page of Luisa González, the presidential candidate currently topping the polls in Ecuador, appears to have been vandalized following the assassination.
A recent edit made to her profile says she is “potentially complicit” in the Villavicencio’s murder and calls her a “right wing proponent of giving up Ecuadorian oil rights.”
González is backed by former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa who in the past has feuded with Villavicencio over his reporting of alleged corruption in Correa’s government. González mourned Villavicencio’s assassination on Twitter and wrote:
“This vile act will not go unpunished!”