Ecuador Busts 6 Foreigners in Assassination; 7th Is Killed

6 Colombian nationals arrested in murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2023 6:46 AM CDT
6 Arrested in Ecuadorean Assassination Are Foreigners
Presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio speaks during a campaign event at a school minutes before he was shot to death outside in Quito, Ecuador, on Wednesday.   (API via AP)

Six people have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, the Ecuadorian presidential candidate gunned down Wednesday, and they're all Colombia nationals. Citing a police report, the AP reports the men were found hiding in a home in Quito, Ecuador's capital, and that cops also seized four shotguns and a rifle, ammo, a handful of grenades, a motorcycle, and another vehicle. The BBC notes a seventh suspect, also from Colombia, died after being injured during a shootout with police on Thursday.

The assassination of the 59-year-old Villavicencio, which also took place in Quito, was the first killing of a presidential candidate in Ecuador, per the New York Times, which notes that the mayor of the city of Manta was fatally shot just last month. A Villavicencio campaign adviser says the candidate, who'd been very vocal about pushing back against crime and government corruption, received at least three death threats before he was killed.

Both the Times and the AP note that the alleged involvement of Colombians in the assassination brings to mind the killing two summers ago of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. At least 18 former Colombian soldiers are currently jailed in Haiti and awaiting trial in that case. The small South American nation of Ecuador, located right between the drug-laden nations of Colombia and Peru, has been struggling with drug trafficking itself of late, resulting in an uptick in violence "not seen in decades," per the AP.

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"Electorally speaking, this year is the most violent in our history," political scientist Arianna Tanca tells the Times. "I think that what is going to change is the way we conceive of politics. I think that from now on it becomes a high-risk profession." Still, Ecuador's president says the assassination won't stop elections from taking place next week. "Given the loss of a democrat and a fighter, the elections are not suspended," Guillermo Lasso said Thursday, per the AP. "On the contrary, they have to be held, and democracy has to be strengthened." (More Ecuador stories.)

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