Nine people were injured in the attack – the suspected shooter is dead. / Presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio killed in Ecuador
A week and a half before the early presidential elections in Ecuador, the candidate Fernando Villavicencio was killed after a campaign event in the capital Quito. This was confirmed by Head of State Guillermo Lasso, who suspects organized crime was behind the attack.
According to authorities, at least nine other people were injured by the shots, including police officers and another candidate. The Attorney General’s Office said one suspect died of his injuries after being arrested. Details about the death of the alleged shooter were not initially given.
President Lasso threatens the cartels
Video footage of Villavicensio’s appearance at the rally, circulating online, showed him leaving the event accompanied by security guards. When he wanted to get into a pickup truck, shots were fired. There was a commotion around the car, and screams can be heard on the video. Villavicencio’s campaign advisor Patricio Zuquilanda later confirmed the authenticity of the scenes to the AP news agency.
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“I am outraged and shocked by the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. My solidarity and condolences go out to his wife and daughters,” President Lasso wrote on Twitter. The head of state convened the National Security Council. “Organized crime has gone too far,” Lasso continued. The authorities spoke of an act of terrorism and also promised to solve the bloody deed.
Villavicencio denounced corruption
Villavicencio ran for the highest office in the South American country as a candidate for the Construye (Building) movement and, according to the latest polls, was in fourth or fifth place. As a journalist and member of parliament, the 59-year-old had repeatedly criticized the widespread corruption in Ecuador.
Before his assassination, Villavicencio was said to have been threatened by leaders of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel – one of the international organized crime groups active in Ecuador. Edison Romo, a former military intelligence colonel, explained that Villavicencio’s anti-corruption activities have made him a threat to the gangs.
Ecuador suffers wave of violence
Early presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in Ecuador on August 20th. These became necessary after President Lasso dissolved the National Assembly in the midst of impeachment proceedings against him for alleged embezzlement.
Ecuador is in a serious political crisis. The approval ratings for government and parliament are very low. The once peaceful country is also currently suffering from a wave of violence. The homicide rate of 25 homicides per 100,000 people last year was the highest in the country’s history, even exceeding those of Mexico and Brazil. The government blames drug dealers for the violence.
Fernando Villavicencio, Ecuador’s presidential candidate, is killed in an attack
Fernando Villavicencio, Ecuador’s presidential candidate, was assassinated in an attack this Wednesday, in the north of Quito, during a political event. This was confirmed by President Guillermo Lasso, Interior Minister Juan Zapata and campaign members.
Villavicencio, a candidate for Movimiento Construye, was with a group of supporters at the Anderson College Coliseum when bursts of shots were heard, according to campaign members.
Christian Zurita, a journalist close to Villavicencio, confirmed the death to CNN. He also on his X account, formerly known as Twitter, he said that they were “hitmen.”
At least 9 people were injured in the attack, “among them a candidate for assembly and two police officers,” reported the Ecuadorian Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday. And added that together with the Police, the entity raises “indications at the scene of the crime and in the health home to which they were transferred”.
The video of what appears to be the moment of the attack against Villavicencio in Quito circulated on social networks this Wednesday. In the footage, Villavicencio is seen walking away from a political rally towards a vehicle surrounded by several police officers and a crowd of people. When Villavicencio gets into the back seat of the vehicle, at least 12 shots are heard. A police officer quickly closes the door behind Villavicencio and many people are seen taking cover from the shots, including his security team.
Ambulances from the emergency services were deployed to the scene after the attack, which occurred at approximately 6:20 p.m. local time. The candidate was removed from the area.
The Ecuadorian Attorney General’s Office reported that it is investigating the murder of Villavicencio: “A fiscal agent, together with criminalists from @PoliciaEcuador take proceedings at the health home where the victim lies.”
And then he added that a “suspect, who was injured during the exchange of bullets with the security personnel, was apprehended and transferred badly injured to the Flagrancy Unit in Quito. An ambulance from the Fire Department confirmed his death.”
The president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, expressed in X his outrage and dismay at the murder of Villavicencio. “My solidarity and my condolences with his wife and his daughters. For his memory and for his fight, I assure you that this crime will not go unpunished,” the president wrote. And he concluded: “Organized crime has come a long way, but the full weight of the law is going to fall on them.”
Hours after the attack, Lasso met with the Security Cabinet and justice authorities and the electoral system at the Carondelet Palace to discuss the “assassination of the candidate Fernando Villavicencio and the decisions that will be made in the next few hours,” reported the Secretariat. General of Communication of the Presidency.
Villavicencio was born in 1963 in Chimborazo. He was a journalist and critic of correísmo and the Lasso government. He was one of the most visible figures in allegations of corruption in the oil field, in the energy field. Even the Odebrecht case in Ecuador had some momentum at the time with the complaints made by Villavicencio, who was also part of the National Assembly, which was dismissed in recent months.
CNN has asked the authorities for more details and we are waiting for a response.
In an interview with Conclusiones last May, Fernando Villavicencio addressed the violence caused by drug trafficking in the country. At that time, he said that Ecuador had become a “narco-state” and proposed restoring security with the armed forces and the police on the streets; and at the same time lead a fight against what he calls the “political mafia”.
Candidates react to the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio
The attack occurred with just 11 days to go before the first round of elections scheduled for August 20.
The candidate Luisa González wrote on Twitter that “with indignation I receive the terrible news of the attack that caused the death of Fernando Villavicencio, this brings us all to mourning, my solidarity hug to all his family and co-ideators. This vile act will not go unpunished! !”.
For his part, the candidate Yaku Pérez made “a call to all the candidates to leave the political flags and to make a social security pact.”
Also candidate Jan Topic sent a message on X in which he said: “As an Ecuadorian I deeply regret the murder of Fernando Villavicencio at the hands of criminals. My condolences to his family and solidarity with his followers and friends. Today more than ever it is repeated the need to act with a strong hand against crime”.
Otto Sonnenholzner, candidate, expressed his solidarity with the Villavicencio family and demanded action from the Government. He also called for unity.