Fernando Villavicencio, formerly a member of Ecuador’s National Assembly, was one of eight presidential candidates registered to take part in the country’s early election.
The politician was gunned down leaving a rally in the capital on Wednesday. He later died in hospital. The assassination of Fernando Villavicencio occurred less than two weeks before the presidential election in the South American country, slated for August 20, 2023.
Fernando Alcibiades Villavicencio Valencia, an Ecuadorian politician and journalist, was one of eight presidential candidates contesting the early elections scheduled for August 20, 2023.
The nation’s President Guillermo Lasso announced in May that he was dissolving the country’s legislature, the National Assembly, to avoid an impeachment vote, with new elections to be held within 90 days.
Villavicencio, who cast himself as an anti-corruption candidate, had been addressing a campaign rally at a local high school in the country’s capital.
The campaign stop was aimed at wooing young supporters. Numerous videos later posted on social media showed Villavicencio leaving the campaign event and entering a white vehicle before gun shots rang out. The 59-year-old sank to the ground.
Villavicencio had been shot several times, according to police and local media reports. The politician was transported to a nearby clinic but medics were unable to save him. There is no exact information as to the number of assailants involved.
It was also revealed that a grenade had been lobbed at the crowd near the politician, which, fortunately, did not explode. Nine other people, including a candidate for the legislature and two police officers were injured.
A criminal gang called Los Lobos (The Wolves) – the second-largest gang in Ecuador, and a breakaway faction from the Los Choneros gang – appears to have claimed responsibility for the killing.
Villavicencio was formerly a union leader at the state oil company, Petroecuador. Originally from Chimborazo province, he served as a member of Ecuador’s National Assembly from 2017 until it was dissolved earlier this year.
He boasted an impressive history in Ecuador’s public affairs, and was an avid anti-corruption campaigner, denouncing the violence caused by drug trafficking in the country.
Villavicencio was also a vocal critic of former President Rafael Correa, who was sentenced to prison for corruption in 2020.
Villavicencio was at one point accused of defaming the former president and sentenced to 18 months in prison, according to media reports, which prompted him to flee to Peru. However, he returned after Correa left office.
Villavicencio was not a frontrunner in the race, with opinion polls showing him hovering somewhere in the middle of the eight candidates. Luisa González is the front-runner of the pack.
At one point earlier in the year Villavicencio was cited as telling the media that Ecuador had become a narco state. The slain politician was married with five children.
Prior to the shooting, Villavicencio claimed on national television that he had received multiple death threats, including from a jailed leader of the Choneros gang, as well as leaders of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, ostensibly operating in Ecuador.
For years now the South American nation has witnessed a surge in violent, gang-related crime, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
According to media reports, raging turf wars among rival drug-trafficking criminal organizations have resulted in a huge spike in murder rates.
The country is struggling to deal with the situation in its overcrowded prisons, where criminal gangs often take control of the penitentiaries, with hundreds of inmates killed.
Furthermore, Ecuador has found itself part of an active cocaine trafficking route from South America to North America and Europe, security experts have been cited as saying.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point Election News 2023.