Ecuador Presidential Candidate Fernando Villavicencio Shot Dead At Campaign Event
Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio shot dead at campaign event as the tragic event unfolded in Ecuador's capital . This disturbing incident highlights the worsening violence and crime situation in the South American nation.
Hilda WorkmanAug 11, 202326792 Shares418629 Views
Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio shot dead at campaign eventas the tragic event unfolded in Ecuador's capital . This disturbing incident highlights the worsening violence and crime situation in the South American nation.
In response to this horrific act, President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador has reached out for assistance. He has formally requested aid from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In a tweet on Thursday, President Lasso announced that an FBI delegation is expected to arrive in Ecuador within the next few hours to provide their expertise and support.
Tragedy struck as Villavicencio, aged 59, was lethally shot while departing from a campaign rally held at a school situated north of the capital Quito. This unfortunate event occurred merely 10 days ahead of the scheduled first round of the presidential election.
The attack resulted in injuries to nine additional individuals, among them a National Assembly candidate and two police officers. President Lasso has made a firm commitment that those responsible for this heinous act will face justice. He declared that while organized crime may have a foothold, the complete force of the law will be brought down upon them.
Aside from seeking assistance from the FBI, President Lasso has declared a state of emergency lasting 60 days. He has also ordered the swift deployment of the armed forces throughout the nation. Additionally, three days of national mourning have been proclaimed.
Despite the tragic events, Ecuador's presidential election, slated for August 20, will proceed according to plan. This affirmation was made by Diana Atamaint, the President of the Electoral Council, on Thursday.
In addition to his request for FBI assistance, President Lasso has enacted a 60-day state of emergency. He has also directed the rapid deployment of the national armed forces across the entire country. Furthermore, a period of three days for national mourning has been declared.
Despite the heartrending circumstances, Ecuador's scheduled presidential election on August 20 will continue without alteration. Diana Atamaint, the President of the Electoral Council, reaffirmed this decision on Thursday.
The alleged perpetrator of Villavicencio's shooting died while in police custody following an exchange of gunfire with security personnel, as stated by Ecuador's Attorney General's Office in a communication on the platform formerly known as Twitter, X.
In relation to the assassination, six additional individuals have been apprehended. During a press conference on Thursday morning, Interior Minister Juan Zapata revealed that the suspects are foreign nationals and affiliated with organized criminal groups, based on initial evidence.
In overnight operations, authorities also discovered a rifle, a machine gun, four pistols, three grenades, two rifle magazines, four ammunition boxes, two motorcycles, and a stolen vehicle believed to have been used by the assailants.
Patricia Villavicencio, the sister of the deceased politician, disclosed that she had been standing beside her brother during the rally before his tragic demise. She conveyed to the media that she holds the national government and the Interior Ministry accountable for his death.
"Where is the security?" she asked.
Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio assassinated
At the moment of the shooting, Villavicencio was indeed accompanied by a security contingent consisting of five police officers, several patrol cars, and his personal armored vehicle, as outlined by Zapata. However, it should be noted that the armored vehicle was not utilized in the context of the incident in Quito.
Earlier in the week, as reported by local media, Interior Minister Zapata mentioned that seven out of the eight presidential candidates in Ecuador were placed under police protection.
A video circulating on various social media platforms seems to capture the critical instant when Villavicencio suffered the fatal gunshot. The footage seemingly depicts Villavicencio walking away from the campaign rally, heading towards a vehicle. The surroundings include numerous police officers and a gathering of spectators.
As he enters the back seat of the vehicle, the sound of at least 12 gunshots becomes evident. A police officer promptly shuts the door after Villavicencio, and multiple individuals, including his security personnel, seek cover from the gunfire.
The heinous assassination triggered widespread condemnation globally. The White House expressed shock over the killing, and John Kirby, the National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, conveyed to CNN that this act was far from the desired outcome for Ecuadorian democracy.
Volker Türk, the UN Human Rights Chief who had previously voiced worry about political violence in the nation, called upon authorities to enhance the security for politicians, public officials, and journalists.
Ecuador's remaining presidential contenders promptly denounced the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio. A few even temporarily halted their campaign activities in response.
"I express my solidarity to his family and supporters, and as a result, I’ve decided to suspend my campaign and I invite the other candidates to drop their political flags," Yaku Pérez, an environmental activist, said Wednesday.
Jan Topic, a businessman, announced on Wednesday that he would be temporarily suspending his campaign as a mark of respect for the tragic loss and to ensure the safety of his campaign team.
The front runner for the presidency, Luisa González, said, "We stand in solidarity with Quito and with the family of the candidate Villavicencio, because when they touch one of us, they touch all of us." In an interview with Ecuadorian radio on Thursday morning, she discussed her personal security concerns.
There are people around me who take care of me. But I believe the first one taking care of me is God. It’s not a question of how much security you have by your side. My security told me to wear a vest, I said they shoot in the head and there it is. It's as simple as that, or a grenade. The criminals are better armed than the police.- Luisa González
In May, President Lasso dissolved the congress led by the opposition, which subsequently paved the way for early elections. Prior to assuming office, Lasso had faced impeachment allegations concerning embezzlement brought forth by opposition legislators, accusations he firmly refutes.
In the past months, demands for his resignation had grown more pronounced due to Ecuador facing both a severe cost-of-living crisis and an escalating security challenge caused by drug trafficking and a power struggle among competing criminal factions.
Once renowned as the "isla de paz" or "island of peace," the Andean nation has seen a surge in its homicide rates in recent years, contrasting its former reputation.
While Ecuador itself lacks a historical record of cocaine production or cultivating its key ingredient, coca, its geographical location places it between the world's two most significant narcotics production centers: Peru and Colombia.
Security experts assert that Ecuador has now become a crucial player in the profitable cocaine trafficking networks that span from South America to North America and Europe. The Pacific coast of Ecuador has particularly experienced heightened levels of violence, as various criminal factions vie for dominance in the acquisition and distribution of illegal drugs.
Additionally, the nation has ceded authority over its excessively populated penitentiaries, which frequently fall under the dominion of criminal factions. Dealing with these gangs within prison walls has posed a challenge for security forces.
In numerous instances, inmates have wrested control of specific sections of penitentiary facilities, effectively orchestrating criminal enterprises from their confinement, as affirmed by Ecuadorian authorities. The past months have witnessed a distressing number of fatalities as a result of ferocious prison uprisings fueled by rival gangs.
In a recent incident during July, Agustin Intriago, the mayor of the coastal city of Manta, met a tragic end, succumbing to gunshots alongside Ariana Chancay, a young athlete engaged in conversation with him on the street.
Every contender in Ecuador's presidential race has committed to curbing the surge in violence. However, the worsening security and economic conditions are prompting a growing number of Ecuadorian citizens to depart from the nation. Recent data indicates that thousands are navigating the perilous Darien Gap in their journey northward this year, fueled by aspirations of reaching the United States.