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Anti-crime crusading Ecuador presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, assassinated leaving a political rally less than two weeks before the vote – a week after being threatened by organized crime

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Fernando Villavicencio, 59, was shot in the head as he was getting into his car after a campaign rally held at a college in Quito on Wednesday night

Nine people were injured, including a female candidate for the National Assembly, as well as two police officers 

The assassins launched a grenade toward Villavicencio’s group, but it did not explode, but one of the suspected shooters was shot dead in crossfire with security services

Villavicencio, a member of Ecuador’s National Assembly before it was dissolved in May, was one of the leading candidates for the August 20 presidential election

Analysts said the right-wing politician and former journalist was the toughest on organized crime which plagues the Latin American nation

The anti-corruption crusading politician last week said he and his team had been threatened by the leader of a gang linked to drug trafficking  

Former journalist, now a a right-wing presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, 59, [photo], speaking at a presidential campaign rally in Quito on Wednesday before he was murdered at he departed

Gunmen in Ecuador shot dead presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio as he was leaving a rally on Wednesday night, with less than two weeks to go until a bitterly contested election.
Announcing his candidacy in May, Villavicencio declared that he intended to ‘take on and defeat the mafias which have co-opted the state and have society on its knees’ – his political journey was cut short by assassin’s bullets on Wednesday night
Footage shared on social media showed the 59-year-old conservative politician, a father-of-five, being escorted out of the rally venue at 6:20pm local time and into a waiting car. He was climbing into the back seat when gunfire rang out.
Security services returned fire as a barrage of forty shots, by some account, rang out. The candidate was hit in the head. One suspect was shot dead in crossfire with security services.
Ecuador’s attorney general said nine people were injured, among them a female candidate for the National Assembly and two police officers. 
The right-wing candidate was behind at least two other candidates, but had been gaining support in recent days, and was seen as the toughest candidate on organized crime. The former union leader and journalist known for tackling corruption, said he and his team had been threatened by the leader of a gang linked to drug trafficking. 

The conservative presidential candidate who is known to be the toughest on crime is seen moments before he was ambushed by gunmen leaving a rally in Quito on Wednesday night, and shot in the head

General Manuel Iniguez, a deputy commander of the Ecuadoran national police, said a police officer was also injured in the attack, which happened outside a college in the north of Quito.  The hit men launched a grenade toward Villavicencio’s group, but it did not explode.
He was taken to a nearby clinic and pronounced dead in hospital. Shocking video showed the moment he arrived, slumped in a wheelchair and pushed by men in army fatigues. They tried to lift him out the wheelchair and up the steps but were unable to do so, and wheeled him up the ramp as a medical employee rushed out.
The country’s President, Guillermo Lasso, confirmed the assassination of Villavicencio and suggested organized crime was behind his slaying. He later declared a state of emergency in response to the killing. 

Villavicencio, a former right-wing member of the National Assembly known to be tough on crime, said last week that he and his team had been threatened by a drug trafficking gang

Villavicencio, a right-wing former member of Ecuador’s National Assembly before it was dissolved in May, had been polling at 7.5 percent. 
Galo Valencia, the uncle of Villavicencio, confirmed that the politician was shot in the head.
‘We were a few meters outside the college gates, and as we were leaving there was a barrage of 40 bullets,’ he told El Comercio.
‘Some people were injured, some of them maybe seriously, and Fernando unfortunately was shot in the head.
‘The medical team have just confirmed that he has died. It’s an indescribable pain for the family.’
Police found a suspicious device outside the college, and carried out a controlled explosion.

Rally attendees were seen scrambling for cover on Wednesday evening in Quito when a barrage of shots rang out as the presidential candidate was departing

Nine more people reportedly, were injured in the shootout, including a woman who is a candidate for the National Assembly

People are seen taking cover as gunshots were fired following a presidential campaign rally held at a college north of in Quito, the Ecuadoran capital on Wednesday

The group of assassins launched a grenade toward Villavicencio’s group, but it did not explode. They also left a device outside the rally venue which security services detonated in a controlled explosion [photo]

Ecuador’s president, Guillermo Lasso, on Wednesday evening tweeted a photo of an emergency meeting in his office with his top security officials said the murder will not go unpunished

President Guillermo Lasso, who was at the premier of the film Sound of Freedom when he learnt of Villavicencio’s killing and was hurried out, said the murder will not go unpunished.
‘For his memory and his fight, I assure you that this crime will not remain unpunished,’ tweeted Lasso. 
‘Organized crime have gone very far, but all the weight of the law will fall on them.’
Lasso’s office later tweeted a photo of his top security officials at an urgent meeting.
‘Now: the president Guillermo Lasso, the Security Cabinet, the authorities of justice and the electoral system meet in the Palace of Carondelet.
‘The assassination of the candidate for the presidency, Fernando Villavicencio, and the decisions that will be made in the next few hours are being discussed.’
His killing follows that of the mayor of the port city of Manta, Agustin Intriago, in July.
In February, the mayoral candidate for the city of Puerto Lopez, Omar Menendez, was murdered.
Villavicencio, from the Andean province of Chimborazo, was the candidate for the Build Ecuador Movement. 

Emergency service workers and police are seen on Wednesday outside the hospital where Villavicencio was transported for treatment. The political odyssey of the one time union leader and journalist turned politician ended when he was pronounced dead at the hospital in the north of Quito on Wednesday night

Villavicencio, [seen in photo from August 8, 2023], was a former union member at the state oil company who became a journalist exposing corruption in the industry

The assassination target was a former union member at state oil company Petroecuador and later a journalist who denounced alleged millions in oil contract losses.
Villavicencio was one of the most critical voices against corruption, especially during the government of former president Rafael Correa from 2007 to 2017, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison for defamation over statements made against the former president.
He fled to Indigenous territory within Ecuador and later was given asylum in Peru.
As a legislator, Villavicencio was criticized by opposition politicians for obstructing an impeachment process this year against Lasso, which led the latter to call the early elections.
Lasso, who was at risk of being impeached when he dissolved the National Assembly and called the elections, said at the end of May that he would not run for re-election.

Villavicencio a leading and voice against corruption, was known as a thorn in the side of corrupt companies and politicians. In the last administration he, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for defamation over statements made against then president Rafael Correa

The legislature had been considering Lasso’s impeachment over allegations he had ignored warnings of embezzlement relating to a contract with state-owned oil transportation company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana (FLOPEC). 
Lasso, a conservative former banker, was elected in 2021 on a business-friendly platform and clashed from the start with the left-leaning majority coalition in the 137-member National Assembly. 
He has also failed to control surging violence.
For decades, Ecuador was one of Latin America’s least violent countries. Now it has the region’s fourth-highest homicide rate, with the level higher even than Mexico. 

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