Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate Shot Dead At Campaign Rally

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A presidential candidate in Ecuador’s forthcoming election, Fernando Villavicencio was on Wednesday shot dead at a campaign rally in the in the northern city of Quito, the country’s capital.

He was a member of the country’s National Assembly and was attacked as he left the event.

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A member of his campaign team told local media Mr Villavicencio, 59, was getting into a car when a man stepped forward and shot him in the head three times.

Current president Guillermo Lasso vowed the “crime will not go unpunished”.The suspect was also shot in an exchange of bullets with security and later died from his injuries, the country’s Attorney General said on social media.

They added that nine persons suffered injuries, including a candidate for assembly and two police officers.

President Lasso, who will not be on the ballot, said he was “outraged and shocked” by the killing, adding: “Organised crime has come a long way, but the full weight of the law is going to fall on them”.

Fuelled by the increasing presence of drug cartels in Ecuador, recent rise in violent crime has been a central issue in this year’s presidential campaign. Last month, Mr Lasso declared states of emergency and night curfews in three provinces following a number of killings linked to organised crime.

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As well as security, Mr Villavicencio’s campaign had focused on tackling corruption, a topic he had covered in an earlier career as a journalist, and reducing environmental destruction. Last week, he said he and his team had been threatened by the leader of a gang linked to drug trafficking.

Mr Villavicencio, who was married and had five children, was one of eight candidates in the first round of the election, although not the frontrunner. His killing follows that of Agustín Intriago, mayor of the city of Manta, in July and Omar Menéndez, candidate for mayor in the city of Puerto López, in February.

Mr Villavicencio’s party, Movimiento Construye, in tribute, shared a comment he posted on social media in response to calls to suspend the presidential campaign following Mr Intriago’s death.

“Hiding in moments when criminals assassinate citizens and officials is an act of cowardice”, he wrote.

The first round of the presidential election is scheduled to take place on 20 August.

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