Human Interest

Six arrested in connection with assassination of Ecuador presidential candidate

(Update 1: Adds details, changes date, new head, lede, edits throughout)

Quito, Aug 10 (EFE).- Six people were arrested Wednesday in connection to the assassination of Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who was shot hours earlier while leaving a campaign rally in Quito.

The arrests were made during raids carried out in Conocoto and San Bartolo, two neighborhoods in the Ecuadorian capital, the Attorney General’s Office reported on X.

The office also said Villavicencio’s body was taken from the medical center to which he had been transferred after the attack, and sent for autopsy.

The incident occurred late Wednesday afternoon on the outskirts of an arena where Villavicencio, 59, had gathered supporters in an electoral rally ahead of the country’s Aug. 20 general election.

It is unknown whether the murder was perpetrated by a single attacker or multiple people, but one suspect died after the incident.

“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 reported after the incident.

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.

President Guillermo Lasso said through his social media that he was “outraged and shocked” by 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.

The assassination of Villavicencio has splashed more blood on an electoral campaign marked by a crisis of insecurity, violence and organized crime that saw 2022 close with the worst rate of violent deaths in Ecuador’s history – 25.32 for every 100,000 residents.

The murders 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.

Manta Mayor 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 since the assassination announcing that they were suspending their electoral campaigns.

The rise of 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


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