Presidential Candidate of Ecuador Fernando Villavicencio Shot Dead in the Street
Presidential candidate of Ecuador, Fernando Villavicencio, was fatally shot on the eve of an electoral event in Quito, just days before the upcoming elections, as reported by BBC.
The incumbent president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, promised that the murder would not go unpunished, stating that "organized crime may have come a long way, but the full weight of the law will fall upon them."
He declared a three-day national mourning.
Villavicencio was one of eight presidential candidates vying in the early elections scheduled for August 20. More than half of Ecuadorians stated in surveys that addressing the country's security issues is their top priority.
An eyewitness to the attack, who wished to remain anonymous, initially thought the shots were fireworks. "We never imagined the tragedy we are living in the country right now. This is terrorism."
Villavicencio was shot as he was leaving a pre-election rally at a school north of the capital Quito, just 10 days before the first round of presidential elections. A former journalist who collaborated with The Guardian and openly discussed the links between organized crime and politics.
In the National Assembly, he repeatedly addressed issues of corruption and violence stemming from drug trafficking in the country.
Earlier in May, Fernando Villavicencio told CNN En Español Conclusions that Ecuador had turned into a "narco-state," offering to lead the fight against what he termed the "political mafia."
The Ecuadorian Attorney General's Office reported that a total of nine people, including two police officers and a candidate for the National Assembly, were injured during the gunfire exchange between criminals, police, and the politician's security personnel.
Initially, it was reported that there were three suspects in Villavicencio's murder, but law enforcement has managed to apprehend only two men for now.
One of the suspected attackers died while in police custody after an exchange of gunfire with security service personnel, according to a statement from the Ecuadorian Attorney General's Office.
This killing comes amid a shocking surge in violent crime in the small South American nation, as rival drug trafficking gangs commit mass murders in prisons, and the murder rate has risen by more than twofold from 2020 to 2022.