Quito, Aug 9 (EFE).- Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was assassinated Wednesday as he left an electoral rally in Quito, while a suspect died of injuries sustained in a shootout with security personnel, authorities said.
Attendees at the rally of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio take shelter during the shooting in which the candidate was assassinated today, in Quito, Ecuador 09 August 2023. EFE/STR
The incident occurred on the outskirts of an arena where Villavicencio, 59, had gathered supporters in a campaign rally ahead of the country’s Aug. 20 general election.
President Guillermo Lasso said on X that he was “outraged and shocked” at the assassination.
“For his memory and for his fight, I assure you that this crime will not go unpunished,” he said, adding that he was to hold a security cabinet meeting.
“Organized crime has come a long way, but the full weight of the law is going to fall on them,” he added.
It is unknown whether the murder was perpetrated by a single attacker or multiple, but videos posted to social media purported to show the candidate being escorted to a car by security detail as shots sounded and people took cover.
Presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio participates in a campaign rally minutes before being assassinated in Quito, Ecuador 09 August 2023. EFE/STR
“A suspect, who was injured during the shootout with security personnel, was apprehended and moved, badly injured, to the (attorney general’s) unit in Quito. An ambulance from the fire department confirmed his death, the police are proceeding with collection of the body,” the attorney general’s office said on X.
Nine people were also injured, including a candidate for assembly and two police officers, it added.
Villavicencio’s Movimiento Construye party said on X that armed men had attacked its Quito offices in a separate incident.
The assassination of Villavicencio has splashed more blood on an electoral campaign marked by a crisis of insecurity and organized crime violence that saw 2022 close with the worst rate of violent deaths in Ecuador’s history – 25.32 for every 100,000 residents.
The assassinations at the hands of hit men and massacres by armed groups that take place daily in across the country have also hit the political sphere.
The mayor of Manta, Agustín Intriago, and a candidate for assembly in the northern province of Esmeraldas were also recently assassinated.
Villavicencio was one of eight presidential candidates registered for the extraordinary general elections, with several of them announcing that they were suspending their electoral campaigns and invoking a pact against insecurity.
The rise of the insecurity is mainly associated, according to the government, to organized crime and drug trafficking, which has gained strength on the coast and has turned the ports into large springboards for cocaine that reaches Europe and North America. EFE