October 3, 2023

In a shocking turn of events that has sent shockwaves through Ecuador’s political landscape, Fernando Villavicencio, a courageous presidential candidate renowned for his vocal stance against criminal cartels and systemic corruption, was tragically shot and killed during a political rally in the capital city of Quito. This heinous act comes amidst a disturbing surge of gang-related violence sweeping across the South American nation.President Guillermo Lasso, deeply affected by the tragic incident, confirmed the assassination of Villavicencio and strongly indicated that organized crime was likely responsible for this sinister act. The assassination occurred just days before the upcoming August 20 presidential election, adding a grim layer of complexity to an already charged political climate.

In a resolute statement, President Lasso pledged that justice would prevail: “I assure you that this crime will not go unpunished. Organized crime has gone too far, but they will feel the full weight of the law.” The Ecuadorian attorney general’s office revealed that one suspect died while in custody due to injuries sustained during a subsequent exchange of gunfire following the assassination. Additionally, law enforcement authorities have apprehended six suspects through well-coordinated raids in Quito.Villavicencio’s final speech, delivered to an enthusiastic crowd just moments before his untimely demise, showcased his unwavering commitment to combat corruption and incarcerate those responsible for plundering the nation’s resources. Prior to the assassination, Villavicencio had openly disclosed receiving multiple death threats, including from affiliates linked to Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa Cartel – one among the numerous international criminal syndicates that have expanded their operations into Ecuador. He believed that his campaign posed a significant threat to the criminal enterprises that sought to undermine the country’s stability.

With deep determination, Villavicencio declared, “Here I am showing my face. I’m not scared of them,” as he referenced detained crime lord José Adolfo Macías, known by his alias “Fito.” Despite not being the front-runner among the eight candidates, the 59-year-old politician represented the Build Ecuador Movement, capturing the hopes of supporters like Ida Paez. Paez expressed her belief that Villavicencio’s campaign symbolized a beacon of hope for a nation striving to overcome the clutches of criminal gangs. Recalling the tragic rally, she shared, “We were happy. Fernando even danced. His last words were, if someone messes with the people, he is messing with my family.”Ecuador has been grappling with an alarming surge in violence, reminiscent of a bygone era, as drug traffickers exploit the nation’s coastal ports and rival gangs wage bloody turf wars in major cities. The unsettling echoes of gunfire have become distressingly common, and these gangs have shockingly resorted to recruiting children into their ranks. Recent events, such as the assassination of Manta’s mayor, have only intensified the sense of urgency. In response, President Lasso declared a state of emergency, encompassing two provinces and the national prison system, underscoring his commitment to curb the escalating violence that threatens the nation’s stability.