Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate Fernando Villavicencio Shot Dead
A candidate in Ecuador’s forthcoming presidential election, Fernando Villavicencio, who was also a member of the country’s Congress, was killed while leaving a political rally in the capital, Quito, on Wednesday.
The killing comes just a fortnight before the presidential election, which had the issue of insecurity as a major concern during the campaigns.
He was one of eight candidates in the running for the initial round of the presidential race with a campaign promise to battle corruption, while accusing Government officials in Ecuador of having links with organized crimes.
A group of hoodlums called Los Lobos (The Wolves) has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Los Lobos is the second-biggest criminal gang in Ecuador with about 8,000 members, a large number of whom are in prisons spread across the country. The group has been engaged with various ongoing dangerous jail battles, in which scores of detainees have been severely killed.
A split away group from the Los Choneros group, Los Lobos is reported to have connections to the Mexico-based Jalisco New Age Cartel (CJNG), for which it deals cocaine.
Los Choneros, a group involved in the trafficking of hard drugs, was initially suspected to be behind Mr. Villavicencio’s murder on the grounds that the group had threatened him the week before.
Los Lobos has however taken responsibility in a video in which members were featured wearing balaclavas streaked gang signs and waving their weapons.
Ecuador has generally been a moderately protected and stable country in Latin America, however criminal activities have shot up recently, fuelled by the developing presence of Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, which have penetrated the country.
The cartels see Ecuador, which has enormous ports, as an avenue to pirate cocaine created in adjoining Colombia and Peru to the US and Europe.
The group has threatened and targeted anybody who they regard as a stumbling block to their criminal activities.
A former Journalist, Fernando Villavicencio, had condemned what he described as the lack of seriousness in dealing with the groups, promising a crackdown on the gangs if he becomes president.
Mr. Villavicencio was among eight candidates in the first round of the presidential election.
An eruption of gunfire could be heard as the 59-year-old was getting into a vehicle outside the structure where, only minutes before, he had been meeting voters at Quito’s monetary region.
Witnesses say Mr. Villavicencio was attacked as he was leaving a mission at around 18:20 (00:20 GMT) local time.
It was reported that cops work outside the meeting site where Mr Villavicencio was killed.
Mr. Villavicencio’s uncle, Galo Valencia said his nephew had been hit by three bullets in the head.
A video from inside the structure featured political allies plunging for cover. In the mayhem, nine others were harmed, including a candidate for the nation’s congress and two cops.
The suspect was likewise shot in a shootout with security officials and later died from gunshot wounds, the country’s attorney-general said via social media. Six individuals have been arrested by police in connection with the attacks in Quito.
Meanwhile, a state of emergency has been declared and current President Guillermo Rope has promised that the crime will not go unpunished.
Former VP and fellow candidate, Otto Sonnenholzner also sent his“deepest condolences and deep solidarity” to Mr. Villavicencio’s family. “May God keep him in his glory,” he wrote. “Our country has got out of hand.”
He is not the first government official to be killed. Last month, the Mayor of the city of Manta was shot dead, while in February, a candidate for Mayor in the city of Puerto López was killed.
Mr. Fernando Villavicencio was married with five children.