Ecuador presidential candidate assassinated days before elections

Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was shot dead Wednesday while leaving a campaign rally in the capital Quito.

The attack took place at 6.20 p.m. (2320GMT) as he was leaving the Anderson School.

Villavicencio, who most polls put in fourth place among the eight candidates competing to fill the spot to be left early by current President Guillermo Lasso in elections on Aug. 20, had built his campaign around the fight against corruption and organized crime.

The candidate, a 59-year-old journalist, was struck by three bullets after a gunman fired at least 40 shots, wounding other people, who have been taken to various health centers.

In a video circulating on social media, a burst of gunfire is heard right as Villavicencio is getting into a car, and he is later seen on the ground, badly wounded.

The country's Public Prosecutor's Office said on Twitter that the suspect in the attack, who was wounded during an exchange of gunfire with security personnel, was arrested and died shortly after.

The attack comes 11 days before elections in a country experiencing an unprecedented security crisis. On July 17, National Assembly candidate Rider Sanchez was murdered in the coastal province of Esmeraldas, and days later, the mayor of Manta, Agustin Intriago, was killed in an armed attack.

Villavicencio had criticized the role of the authorities in combating organized crime and had reported threats against him.

President Lasso said he was "outraged and dismayed" by the assassination and called an emergency security meeting.

"For his memory and for his struggle, I assure you that this crime will not go unpunished," he said.

Candidate Luisa Gonzalez, who is most likely to win according to the polls, also condemned the incident and suspended her campaign rally.

"It is very sad news. Political differences are resolved at the ballot box, not with violence. We sympathize with the family of Fernando Villavicencio. When they take one, they touch us all," she said.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt