Ecuador Presidential Candidate Fernando Villavicencio Shot Dead at Campaign Event
Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was shot and killed at a political rally, sparking concerns over rising violence and drug trafficking in the country. President Guillermo Lasso vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, suggesting organized crime was involved. Other candidates demanded action and expressed their outrage over the assassination.
On Wednesday, a shocking act of violence occurred at a political rally in the capital city of Ecuador, resulting in the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, a prominent presidential candidate known for his outspoken stance against corruption. This tragic incident comes amidst a wave of startling violence that has gripped the South American country.
President Guillermo Lasso, in a statement, confirmed the assassination and expressed his belief that organized crime was responsible for Villavicencio's murder. With less than two weeks before the upcoming presidential election on August 20, Lasso vowed that this crime would not go unpunished, emphasizing that those behind it would face the full force of the law.
Prior to his untimely death, Villavicencio had reported receiving multiple death threats, including from leaders of Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel, which is just one of many international organized crime groups that have established a presence in Ecuador. It is important to note that Villavicencio was one of eight candidates in the race, though not the frontrunner.
The late politician, aged 59, represented the Build Ecuador Movement and leaves behind a grieving wife and five children.
According to Ecuador's attorney general's office, a suspect involved in Villavicencio's assassination died from injuries sustained during his arrest by authorities.
The surge in violence witnessed in Ecuador, a historically peaceful nation, can be attributed to the influx of drug traffickers into the country. This has resulted in an alarming increase in drug trafficking, violent killings, and even the recruitment of children by criminal gangs.
Videos circulating on social media depict the moments leading up to the shooting, showing Villavicencio surrounded by security guards as he exits the event. The footage then captures him entering a white pickup truck before gunshots ring out, followed by screams and chaos surrounding the vehicle. Patricio Zuquilanda, Villavicencio's campaign adviser, confirmed the accuracy of these events to The Associated Press.
Zuquilanda revealed that the candidate had previously received at least three death threats, all of which had been reported to the authorities. One arrest had been made as a result. He called upon international authorities to take decisive action against the escalating violence, attributing it to the rise in crime and drug trafficking.
"The Ecuadorian people are in mourning, and Ecuador itself is gravely wounded," Zuquilanda lamented. "Politics should never result in the loss of any member of society."
Villavicencio was a vocal critic of corruption, particularly during the tenure of President Rafael Correa from 2007 to 2017. He filed numerous legal complaints against high-ranking officials within the Correa government, including the former president himself.
Edison Romo, a former military intelligence colonel, stated that these complaints made Villavicencio a significant threat to international criminal organizations.
Authorities have confirmed that at least nine others were injured in the attack, including police officers and a candidate for Congress. They have classified the incident as a terrorist act and have vowed to thoroughly investigate the assassination.
The assassination of Fernando Villavicencio has sparked outrage among his fellow candidates, who are demanding swift action. Presidential frontrunner Luisa González of the Citizen Revolution party declared, "When they harm one of us, they harm all of us."
Another candidate and former vice president, Otto Sonnenholzner, expressed his frustration and grief in a press conference, stating, "We are dying, drowning in a sea of tears, and we do not deserve to live like this. We demand that something be done."
The assassination of Fernando Villavicencio serves as a grim reminder of the challenges facing Ecuador, as the country grapples with rising violence, drug trafficking, and the need for effective measures to combat organized crime. It is a tragedy that highlights the urgent need for action and unity in the face of such senseless acts of violence.