Police Arrest 6 Suspects in Assassination of Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate Fernando Villavicencio

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

As RedState reported in a breaking story on Wednesday, Fernando Villavicencio, a former investigative journalist who sought the presidency of Ecuador in that country’s upcoming elections was slain by a gunman after he exited a campaign event in Quito, the South American nation’s capital. My colleague Bonchie wrote:

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Fernando Villavicencio, who was a member of the country’s national assembly, was running for president in the election that’s supposed to take place on August 20. He was leaving a campaign event in Quito and trying to get into his car when suddenly shots rang out. […]

The security had walked him to the car, and he was in the car, with the security in what looked like bulletproof vests at the door, so I’m not sure how a guy got through there or where he was. But it didn’t sound good.

His campaign told the local media that he was “about to get into the car” when a man suddenly shot him in the head.

Villavicencio had been a journalist and had been calling out corruption for years.

Authorities continue their investigation of Villavicencio’s assassination, but it now appears to have been a conspiracy, as police revealed in a report released on Thursday the arrest of six suspects who are Columbian nationals.

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — The six men arrested as suspects in the assassination of an anti-corruption Ecuadorian presidential candidate are Colombian nationals, a police report said Thursday as authorities investigated the motive for a crime that shocked a nation already reeling from a surge in drug-related violence.

The six men were captured hiding in a house in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, said the report, which was reviewed by The Associated Press. Officers also seized four shotguns, a 5.56-mm rifle, ammunition and three grenades, along with a vehicle and a motorcycle, it said.

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As we shared in an update on the original story, one of the alleged suspects, thought to be the shooter, was seriously injured during a shootout with police following the killing; he died from his wounds Wednesday while in custody.

The AP report notes that Villavicencio “was not a front-runner, but his death deepened the sense of crisis around organized crime that has already claimed thousands of lives and underscored the challenge that Ecuador’s next leader will face.” The candidate had spoken out about the threats against him from one cartel in particular:

Villavicencio had said he was threatened by affiliates of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, one of a slew of international organized crime groups that now operate in Ecuador. He said his campaign represented a threat to such groups.[…]

The candidate had received at least three death threats before the shooting and reported them to authorities, resulting in one detention, [Patricio Zuquilanda, Villavicencio’s campaign adviser] said.

Ecuador’s current President Guillermo Lasso described how the men involved in Villavicencio’s killing tried to escape from the scene—by throwing a grenade into the street. However, it failed to explode. AP reports that “police later destroyed the grenade with a controlled explosion.”

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Another presidential candidate, former Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner, addressed the wave of violence in Ecuador, at a news conference in the wake of Villavicencio’s assassination:

We are dying, drowning in a sea of tears, and we do not deserve to live like this.

Pres. Lasso activated a state of emergency while declaring three days of mourning. He also confirmed that despite the assassination, the election will go on as planned on August 20.

RedState will provide further updates on this story as they become available.

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