Ecuador arrests 6 Columbians in assassination of presidential candidate

August 11, 2023

Authorities in Quito, Ecuador on Thursday arrested six Columbian men related to the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.

The 59-year-old anti-corruption crusader was shot and killed while leaving a campaign event at a stadium in Quito on Wednesday. His suspected assassin died in police custody following an exchange of gunfire with security personnel. 

Current President Guillermo Lasso declared a two-month state of emergency in Ecuador in the wake of Villavicencio’s assassination, but he said Ecuador’s general elections will be held as scheduled on August 20.

According to the arrest report, the Columbian men were captured while hiding in a house in Quito where law enforcement officers seized four shotguns, a 5.56-mm rifle, ammunition and three grenades as well as two vehicles, one of which was a motorcycle.

 Ecuador’s Interior Minister Juan Zapata has described Villavicencio’s assassination as “political crime of a terrorist nature” that was aimed at sabotaging the upcoming election. 

The police report does not say whether the six Columbians were members of any organized group but Zapata said they were linked to organized crime.

As a member of the National Assembly, Ecuador’s unicameral legislature, Villavicencio had lambasted corruption and the violence brought about by drug trafficking. In May he called Ecuador a “narco state” and vowed to fight against its “political mafia.”

Amid his presidential campaign, Villavicencio had claimed to be threatened by affiliates of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, to which the notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and his three imprisoned sons are linked. Sinaloa is just one of numerous organized crime groups operating in Ecuador.

Villavicencio was assassinated 10 days before the first round of Ecuador’s presidential election was set to take place. Opinion polls had put him in the middle of the pack of the eight candidates, well behind frontrunner Luisa González.

Nine people were injured amid the shootout between police and Villavicencio’s suspected assassin, including a National Assembly candidate and two police officers.

PHOTO: Fernando Villavicencio in Ecuador’s National Assembly, 2022

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