A presidential candidate in Ecuador who had been outspoken in regards to the hyperlink between organized crime and authorities officers was assassinated Wednesday night at a political rally within the capital, simply days earlier than voting begins in an election that has been dominated by considerations over drug-related violence.

The candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, a former journalist, was gunned down exterior a highschool in Quito after chatting with younger supporters. A suspect was killed within the melee that adopted, and 9 different folks had been shot, officers stated.

“When he stepped exterior the door, he was met with gunfire,” Carlos Figueroa, who labored for Mr. Villavicencio’s marketing campaign and was on the rally, stated of the candidate. “There was nothing to be accomplished, as a result of they had been pictures to the top.”

Mr. Villavicencio, 59, was polling close to the center of an eight-person race. He was among the many most vocal candidates on the problem of crime and state corruption.

It was the primary assassination of a presidential candidate in Ecuador and got here lower than a month after the mayor of Manta, a port metropolis, was fatally shot throughout a public look. Ecuador, as soon as a comparatively secure nation, has been consumed by violence associated to narco-trafficking within the final 5 years.

“Outraged and shocked by the assassination,” President Guillermo Lasso wrote on the social media platform X, previously often known as Twitter, late Wednesday, blaming the loss of life on “organized crime.”

The nationwide prosecutor’s workplace stated on the identical platform {that a} suspect had been shot and apprehended amid crossfire with safety forces, and had died shortly afterward. The workplace later stated the authorities had carried out raids and detained six folks in reference to the assassination.

The 9 different folks shot included two law enforcement officials and a candidate for a Nationwide Meeting seat, in response to the prosecutor’s workplace. There was no speedy details about the situation of the 9 folks; it was unclear late Wednesday night time whether or not any of them had died.

The killing is a serious blow to a nation that was already struggling deep financial, social and political upheaval.

“Electorally talking, this yr is probably the most violent in our historical past,” stated Arianna Tanca, an Ecuadorean political scientist. “I believe that what will change is the way in which we conceive of politics. I believe that any more it turns into a high-risk career.”

Ecuador, on South America’s western edge, witnessed a rare transformation between 2005 and 2015 as tens of millions of individuals rose out of poverty, driving the wave of an oil growth whose income had been poured into schooling, well being care and different social packages.

However extra not too long ago, the nation has been dominated by an more and more highly effective narco-trafficking trade. International drug mafias have joined forces with native jail and road gangs, unleashing a wave of violence in contrast to something within the nation’s latest historical past. Murder charges are at document ranges.

Right this moment, the violence is usually horrific and public, meant to induce concern and exert management: There are common experiences of automotive bombings, beheadings and youngsters being gunned down exterior their faculties.

Complicating the state of affairs, Mr. Lasso disbanded the nation’s opposition-led Nationwide Meeting in Could, a drastic transfer he made as he confronted impeachment proceedings over accusations of embezzlement.

The transfer, which is allowed underneath the Structure, meant that new elections for president and legislative representatives can be held. The vote through which Mr. Villavicencio was presupposed to compete is about for Aug. 20.

Mr. Villavicencio, who had labored as a journalist, activist and legislator, gained prominence as an opponent of correísmo, the leftist motion of former President Rafael Correa, who served from 2007 to 2017 and nonetheless holds main political sway in Ecuador. A presidential candidate who has Mr. Correa’s backing, Luisa González, is main within the polls.

Mr. Villavicencio wrote usually about alleged corruption within the Correa authorities, which made him the topic of authorized persecution and loss of life threats. He briefly sought political asylum in Peru.

In 2017, Mr. Villavicencio efficiently ran for a seat within the Nationwide Meeting, the place he served till the legislature was dissolved by Mr. Lasso.

Mr. Correa, writing on the X platform late Wednesday, lamented Mr. Villavicencio’s loss of life. “Ecuador has change into a failed state,” he wrote. “My solidarity along with his household and with all of the households of the victims of violence.”

Grace Jaramillo, an Ecuadorean professor of political science on the College of British Columbia who went to school with Mr. Villavicencio, remembered operating towards him in an election for pupil physique president. He ran as a Trotskyist, and she or he represented a celebration referred to as Democracy in Our Home; each misplaced, to a pupil representing the Chinese language Communist Celebration.

“He was actually a fighter on a regular basis and superb at arguments,” Ms. Jaramillo stated. “An arguer, a challenger. He used to like full of life discussions.”

After college, she stated, Mr. Villavicencio grew to become a union chief at Petroecuador, the nation’s nationwide oil firm. Quickly after Mr. Correa got here to energy, he began writing about authorities corruption as a political journalist.

Ms. Jaramillo stated she met with him on the time to present him recommendation. His home had been raided, and he had no cash to combat the costs that had been introduced towards him, she stated.

“He was downtrodden. He felt bullied and diminished,” she added.

However just a few weeks in the past, when she noticed him on a visit to Quito, he was “actually hopeful and enthusiastic,” Ms. Jaramillo stated. “He was satisfied that he may make it to the second spherical” of the presidential election.

His loss of life, she stated, might be “a long-lasting reminiscence of how troublesome it’s to combat corruption and to be secure on the identical time.”



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