Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio Valencia was assassinated this Wednesday, August 9, in full view of bodyguards, security personnel, and supporters, having just participated in a campaign rally in Quito. President Lasso decreed a state of emergency for a period of 60 days, making the announcement a few minutes after the violent incident.
Villavicencio was running for the presidency of Ecuador as a part of the Construye movement, campaigning for the early elections that were to be held on August 20. Originally a member of the indigenous Pachakutik movement, he later become a legislator and a fierce opponent of the current government, until Guillermo Lasso dissolved the National Assembly utilizing the maneuver of cross death, an institutional resource that forces the advancement of the presidential and legislative elections.
With an unfortunate irony, just before he was assassinated, he made a statement at a rally that he did not need a bulletproof vest, refusing to use this protection, even though he had taken note of and condemned the death threats that he received from the Sinaloa Cartel.
Villavicencio antes de su asesinato: "No necesito chaleco antibalas". El candidato presidencial ecuatoriano fue asesinado tras recibir varios disparos en Quito. A pesar de haber denunciado amenazas de muerte, se rehusaba a utilizar chaleco antibalas. pic.twitter.com/kpnzsGyzlV
— Sepa Más (@Sepa_mass) August 10, 2023
For some time, Villavicencio had been projecting himself as a controversial investigator of corruption cases. Among his proposals was to address Ecuador’s security crisis, his method for which included a project for a high-security prison to hold the most wanted criminals.
In addition to the ensuing political crisis, the nation is experiencing one of the highest periods of criminal violence in the streets, for which reason a state of emergency has been declared in some provinces. Car bombs at gas stations, attacks on police units, as well as prison riots and assassinations of officials and political leaders, are only part of what has been experienced in the southern country.
Ecuador leads the numbers in the rise in criminal violence in Latin America in recent years; between 2021 and 2022, the tally of violent deaths grew by 82%. It is the sixth most violent country in the region, above México.
The state attributes this to foreign drug trafficking groups that have taken over the country, including the Sinaloa Cartel and two other cartels (Jalisco New Generation and the Balkan Mafia), according to the Ecuadorian police. The fact that Ecuador has become a major marketplace for illegal substances is indicative of the structural failures in security that have plagued the state since the inauguration of Lenín Moreno’s government.
Following Villavicencio’s murder, a video was released in which a local criminal group, Los Lobos, claimed responsibility for the act.
Un video difundido en redes sociales muestra a un grupo de encapuchados supuestamente pertenecientes a la organización criminal Los Lobos atribuyéndose la muerte del candidato presidencial Fernando Villavicencio en Ecuador. pic.twitter.com/Q3k4wjPhou
— Sepa Más (@Sepa_mass) August 10, 2023
The internal crisis has allowed organized crime to become directly involved in national politics under methods of institutional violence, instead of disputes occurring within the government’s security infrastructure in Ecuador.
This Thursday, August 10, it was reported that Ecuadorian authorities arrested six Colombian nationals for allegedly being involved in the murder of Fernando Villavicencio. The mercenary industry in Colombia has had numerous episodes of scandal in recent times, including the incursions of mercenaries in defense of Kyiv, and, prior to that, being involved in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.
Ecuador’s electoral body announced that the general elections scheduled for August 20 will not be suspended. The candidates still in the race are: the Citizen Revolution Movement’s politician, Luisa González; the indigenous lawyer Yaku Pérez, who has links with the United States; the businessman Jan Topic, who has been rising in the polls; and the economist and former vice-president of the government of Lenín Moreno (2017-2021) between December 2018 and July 2020, Otto Sonnenholzne.
Villavicencio also had disputes with former President Rafael Correa, after accusing Correa of being the main responsible actor behind the September 30, 2010, coup attempt against himself, leading to a legal battle that resulted in a dismissal and a later counter-demand for injury filed by President Correa. He also attacked President Correa regarding the security required to protect Julian Assange when Assange was granted political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
(Misión Verdad) with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune