QUITO (AFP) – A popular candidate running for Ecuador’s presidency was shot dead as he was leaving a rally in the capital Quito on Wednesday evening, officials said.
President Guillermo Lasso blamed Fernando Villavicencio’s death on organised crime in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Outraged and shocked by the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio,” he said. “For his memory and for his fight, I assure you that this crime will not go unpunished.”
The 59-year-old centrist, who had complained of receiving threats against him, was the second most popular candidate in the country’s August 20 presidential race, according to recent opinion polls.
Villavicencio was murdered as he was leaving a stadium in northern Quito after holding a campaign rally, officials said. Nine other people were injured in the attack, including a candidate running for the national legislature and two policemen, prosecutors said.
One of the alleged attackers was shot and killed by security personnel. And police detonated an explosive device planted in the area, said Chief Investigator Alain Luna.
Carlos Figueroa, a friend of Villavicencio’s who was with him at the time of the attack, told local media that the assailants fired around 30 shots.
“They ambushed him outside the sports centre,” Figueroa said. “Some (of those present) even thought they were fireworks.”
The country’s main newspaper, El Universo, reported that Villavicencio was assassinated hitman-style and with three shots to the head.