In a devastating turn of events, a prominent presidential candidate in Ecuador met a violent end on Wednesday evening as gunshots pierced through a political rally held in the capital city, Quito. This heart-wrenching incident occurred just days prior to a pivotal election that has been deeply focused on the escalating security crisis gripping the nation.
The victim, Fernando Villavicencio, a former journalist, was tragically confirmed to have lost his life by President Guillermo Lasso. As one of the eight contenders in the electoral race, Villavicencio occupied a mid-tier position in the polls. He stood out as a vocal advocate, openly addressing the concerning nexus between organized crime and governmental figures.
Ecuador, once considered a relatively secure country, has been grappling with an alarming surge in violence linked to drug trafficking over the past half-decade. However, the assassination of Villavicencio catapulted the nation into an unprecedented state of apprehension and sorrow. The campaign trail has never before witnessed the cold-blooded killing of a presidential hopeful.
President Lasso expressed his deep dismay and shock via X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, late on Wednesday. He unequivocally attributed the tragedy to the hands of “organized crime.”
The fateful incident transpired when the 59-year-old Villavicencio was at a local high school, passionately addressing a gathering of enthusiastic young supporters. Carlos Figueroa, a member of his campaign team who was present at the rally, painfully recounted the horrifying scene. According to Figueroa, as Villavicencio emerged from the school’s entrance, he was met with a barrage of gunfire that proved fatal. The shots were precisely aimed at his head, leaving no chance for intervention.
This shocking assassination has sent shockwaves through a nation that was still grappling with the recent loss of another influential political figure. Just a few weeks prior, Agustín Intriago, a 38-year-old mayor of Manta – a crucial port city in Ecuador – fell victim to violence during a visit to a neighborhood in Manta.
Rafael Balda, a political analyst within Ecuador, aptly captured the gravity of the situation, remarking, “We find ourselves at the precipice of societal decay. It’s essential to recognize that this tragic incident is not an isolated occurrence.”
Villavicencio’s political journey saw him successfully secure a seat in the National Assembly in 2017, where he served diligently until the dissolution of the legislature earlier this year. President Lasso made the decision to call for fresh presidential and legislative elections, marking a significant turn of events in the nation’s political landscape.