Assassination of Presidential Candidate Shakes Ecuador: A Killing Amidst Rising Violence

Quito, Ecuador (TEH) – The assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, a former journalist and vocal critic of the nexus between organized crime and government officials, has sent shockwaves through Ecuador. The killing occurred on Wednesday evening outside a high school in Quito, where Villavicencio had just addressed young supporters at a political rally.

Carlos Figueroa, a campaign worker who witnessed the incident, described the horrifying moment when Villavicencio was met with gunfire as he stepped outside the door. The shots were fatal, aimed at his head, leaving no chance for survival.

The 59-year-old candidate, who was polling near the middle of an eight-person race, had been one of the most outspoken figures on the issue of crime and state corruption. His assassination marks the first of a presidential candidate in Ecuador’s history, coming on the heels of the murder of the mayor of Manta less than a month ago.

Ecuador, once considered a relatively safe nation, has been engulfed by violence related to narco-trafficking in the last five years. The country’s transformation from a success story of poverty reduction to a battleground for drug mafias and local gangs has been both rapid and devastating. Record levels of homicide, car bombings, beheadings, and even children being gunned down outside their schools have become grim realities.

President Guillermo Lasso expressed his outrage and shock on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, blaming the death on “organized crime.” The national prosecutor’s office announced the apprehension and subsequent death of a suspect amid crossfire with security forces.

The killing has further shaken a nation already reeling from deep economic, social, and political upheaval. The rise of an increasingly powerful narco-trafficking industry has transformed Ecuador, unleashing a wave of violence unlike anything in the country’s recent history.

Adding to the complexity, President Lasso’s disbandment of the opposition-led National Assembly in May, a move allowed under the Constitution, has led to new elections for president and legislative representatives. The vote in which Villavicencio was supposed to compete is set for August 20.

Villavicencio’s political career included work as a journalist, activist, and legislator. He gained prominence as an opponent of correísmo, the leftist movement of former President Rafael Correa. His assassination underscores the perilous state of Ecuador’s democracy and the urgent need for action against the escalating violence.

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