Ecuador presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, 59, has been assassinated less than two weeks before the country’s general election.
Villavicencio was shot dead at a Movimiento Construye political rally at a school north of the capital Quito Wednesday night, August 9. He was gunned down 10 days before the first round of the presidential election which was set to take place on August 20.
Footage shared on social media showed Villavicencio, 59, being escorted out of the rally venue and into a waiting car. As he was getting into the back seat gunfire rang out. He was reportedly shot three times in the head.
Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was assassinated at a rally earlier today…
Fernando Villavicencio was running a anti-corruption investigation into drug cartels link to the previous left-wing government…
Extreme left governments are fast becoming a threat… pic.twitter.com/NOd7omDUMI
— Pelham (@Resist_05) August 10, 2023
One suspect was shot dead in crossfire with security services, the country’s attorney general said, adding that nine people were injured among them a female candidate for the National Assembly and two police officers.
Villavicencio was rushed to a hospital where he was declared dead.
Galo Valencia, the uncle of Villavicencio, confirmed that the politician was shot in the head.
‘We were a few meters outside the college gates, and as we were leaving there was a barrage of 40 bullets,’ he told El Comercio.
‘Some people were injured, some of them maybe seriously, and Fernando, unfortunately, was shot in the head.
‘The medical team have just confirmed that he has died. It’s an indescribable pain for the family.’
Last week Villavicencio, a former journalist known for tackling corruption, said he and his team had been threatened by the leader of a gang linked to drug trafficking.
In May, announcing his candidacy, he declared that he intended to ‘take on and defeat the mafias which have coopted the state and have society on its knees.’
General Manuel Iniguez, a deputy commander of the Ecuadoran national police, said a police officer was also injured in the attack, which happened outside a college in the north of Quito. The hit men launched a grenade toward Villavicencio’s group, but it did not explode.
He was taken to a nearby clinic and pronounced dead in hospital.
President of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, who was at the premier of the film Sound of Freedom when he learnt of Villavicencio’s killing and was hurried out, said the murder will not go unpunished.
‘For his memory and his fight, I assure you that this crime will not remain unpunished,’ tweeted Lasso.
‘Organized crime have gone very far, but all the weight of the law will fall on them.’
Lasso’s office later tweeted a photo of his top security officials at an urgent meeting.
‘Now: the president Guillermo Lasso, the Security Cabinet, the authorities of justice, and the electoral system meet in the Palace of Carondelet.
‘The assassination of the candidate for the presidency, Fernando Villavicencio, and the decisions that will be made in the next few hours are being discussed.’