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Ecuador arrests 6 Colombians over candidate's assassination

August 11, 2023

Fernando Villavicencio, known for speaking up against drug cartels, was assassinated in Quito. The government said it was pursuing the "intellectual authors" of the murder.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso at an event in Quito
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said the next presidential election will still be held on August 20Image: Juan Diego Montenegro/AP Photo/picture alliance

Six people have been arrested in Ecuador late on Thursday in connection with the killing of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio at a day earlier.

Villavicencio, a well-known anti-corruption crusader who was polling in fifth place, was shot dead as he left a campaign event in the capital, Quito. The gunman was killed in a shootout with police.

Interior Minister Juan Zapata described the killing as a "political crime of a terrorist nature" aimed at sabotaging the August 20 presidential election.

He had added that "those arrested belong to organized crime gangs."

"The national police now have the first arrests of the alleged material authors of this abominable event and will employ all of their operative and investigative capacity to discover the motive of this crime and its intellectual authors," Zapata said. 

Ecuador declares state of emergency after assassination

"All of them, including the deceased, are Colombians," police told the AFP news agency.

During the arrests and raids, police found weapons including a rifle, a submachine gun, four pistols, three grenades, two rifle magazines and four boxes of ammunition. They also found a stolen vehicle.

Sate of emergency declared

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso declared a two-month state of emergency after the incident.

He also declared three days of mourning.

The United States FBI confirmed that Lasso had asked it for help with the investigation.

The Ecuadorian government said that although the assassination was an attempt to sabotage the election, the vote will nevertheless go ahead.

"Citizens have the guarantee that the armed forces will provide the necessary security for the realization of the vote, the vote of Ecuadorians will be the best response to the mafias and their allies," Defense Minister Luis Lara told reporters.

zc/lo (AFP, Reuters)