A political rally in the capital city witnessed the tragic shooting of an Ecuadorian presidential hopeful. This candidate had recently made a commitment to eradicate corruption and imprison those responsible for the country’s thefts. This incident occurred against the backdrop of a nation struggling with drug-related criminal activities and overall violence.
Fernando Villavicencio, aged 59, recognized for his vocal stance against criminal cartels, was killed on Wednesday, just under a fortnight before a significant presidential election. Although he wasn’t a leading contender, his murder intensified the feeling of turmoil connected to organized crime, which has already resulted in the loss of numerous lives. This event also highlighted the daunting task that Ecuador’s upcoming leader will confront.
A video from the Quito rally shared on social media seemed to depict Villavicencio leaving the event accompanied by security personnel. Subsequently, the footage captured the candidate entering a white pickup truck, after which the sound of gunfire rang out, accompanied by cries and disorder around the vehicle.
Prior to the shooting incident, the candidate had been subjected to a minimum of three death threats, all of which were communicated to the authorities. One of these threats led to an arrest, as per the advisor.
Quedó grabado el Momento exacto en que matan a Fernando Villavicencio!! pic.twitter.com/7kpqUzwzQ4— Emergencias Ec (@EmergenciasEc) August 10, 2023
Former Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner, who is also in the running for the presidency, expressed his sorrow over the tragedy during a press conference, stating, “We are dying, drowning in a sea of tears, and we do not deserve to live like this.”
The attackers hurled a grenade onto the street as a diversionary tactic as they fled, but it failed to detonate, according to President Guillermo Lasso. Subsequently, law enforcement safely neutralized the grenade through a controlled explosion.
Law enforcement activities conducted across various areas of Quito led to the apprehension of six individuals. Additionally, one of the suspects, who had sustained injuries in a shootout, passed away while in custody, as reported by the attorney general’s office.
Lasso implied that the killing might have connections to organized criminal activities and emphasized the importance of continuing with the planned election on August 20th. He announced a period of three days for national mourning and enacted a state of emergency, which includes the deployment of extra military forces across the nation.
In his last address before his tragic demise, Villavicencio assured an enthusiastic audience that he would combat corruption and incarcerate a greater number of wrongdoers.
He had been targeted by individuals associated with the Sinaloa cartel from Mexico, one among several global organized criminal factions now active within Ecuador. He asserted that his campaign posed a challenge to such entities.
Villavicencio stood as one of Ecuador’s prominent opponents of corruption, notably throughout the presidency of Rafael Correa from 2007 to 2017.
As an independent journalist, he delved into corruption within earlier administrations before transitioning into politics as an advocate against dishonesty.
Villavicencio submitted numerous legal complaints against top officials in the Correa administration, even targeting the former president. He faced an 18-month prison term due to defamation for his critiques of Correa and sought refuge within Indigenous regions of Ecuador before eventually obtaining asylum in Peru.