Ecuadorian presidential hopeful Fernando Villavicencio was tragically killed following a rally he held in Quito on Wednesday evening, according to top authorities. President Guillermo Lasso, in a statement posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), attributed Villavicencio’s untimely death to “organized criminal activity” and pledged to ensure that those responsible face justice.
“I am deeply appalled and saddened by the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, a candidate for the presidency,” President Lasso expressed. “In honor of his legacy and his unwavering commitment, I want to emphasize that this heinous act will not escape accountability.”
The 59-year-old moderate candidate was among eight individuals participating in the initial round of Ecuador’s upcoming presidential election set for August 20. Tragedy struck Villavicencio as he was departing from a stadium in the northern part of Quito after conducting a campaign rally, as per official reports.
The nation’s primary newspaper, El Universo, detailed the incident as a “hitman-style assassination, involving three shots to the head.” Earlier this month, Villavicencio had raised concerns about threats being directed towards him and his campaign team.
‘Enforcement of Legal Measures’
President Lasso promptly convened a crucial meeting with top security officials to address “this distressing incident that has deeply impacted the nation.”
“In their pursuit of criminal activities, organized groups have crossed a grave threshold. However, we are resolute in ensuring that they face the full extent of legal consequences,” Lasso declared in his communication.
As per the most recent surveys, Villavicencio, a former journalist, and ex-member of parliament, secured the second position with approximately 13 percent voter support. He trailed behind attorney Luisa Gonzalez, who maintains close ties to former left-wing president Rafael Correa.
In recent years, Ecuador has grappled with an upsurge in violence connected to drug trafficking. Amid the ongoing electoral process, this violence has already resulted in the tragic deaths of a mayor and a parliamentary candidate.
Diana Atamaint, the President of the National Electoral Council (CNE), revealed earlier on Wednesday that multiple members of her organization, responsible for supervising the electoral proceedings, had received threats on their lives.
Atamaint was one of the officials summoned by President Lasso for the high-priority security meeting. Also in attendance were the Attorney General, the President of the National Court of Justice, and other relevant figures. President Lasso also conveyed a message to Villavicencio’s family. “I extend my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to his wife and daughters,” he expressed in his message.