Murder of Presidential Candidate: Will Ecuador Become a “Failed State”?

Murder of Presidential Candidate: Will Ecuador Become a “Failed State”?

The images get under your skin: It’s Wednesday evening and the Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio is on his way to his car, accompanied by security forces. He comes from a campaign event in the capital Quito.

As he sits in the car, shots are fired. You meet Villavicencio. Panic breaks out on the street and in the building. People get to safety, throw themselves to the ground. Helpers bring the politician to the “Clinica de la Mujer”, but there is nothing more that can be done there.

“We were only a few meters away from him,” an uncle of the candidate told the newspaper “El Universo”. “As we left, 40 shots were fired. We have just received confirmation that he has passed away. It is an indescribable pain for the family.”

President Lasso promised to hold those responsible accountable.

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Background to the poor security situation in Ecuador

The day is a turning point for Ecuador: the elections will take place on August 20th. Actually, this should end the political crisis in the country. Conservative President Guillermo Lasso dissolved parliament in May to avoid impeachment. He was criticized.

The country is suffering a serious economic crisis, and there are allegations of corruption against those around it. During Lasso’s tenure there were repeated demonstrations, some of them violent, which the police brutally put down.

Since then, the security situation in Ecuador has steadily deteriorated. Gang fights in prisons have cost hundreds of lives. Local politicians are assassinated and activists are murdered. Everyday crime increases. The assassination of presidential candidate Villavicencio is a new highpoint in these developments.

Fernando Villavicencio.
Fernando Villavicencio.

Murder probably politically motivated

The unclear evidence so far only allows assumptions as to who is responsible for his death. A gang called “Los Lobos” took responsibility in a video distributed on social networks, accusing Villavicencio of corruption and breach of word. They also threatened another presidential candidate.

It is obvious that the candidate was murdered because of his political commitment. Villavicencio ran for the presidency for the center movement Construye. He worked as a journalist, reported on cases of corruption, and tangled with the powerful elite around left-wing former President Rafael Correa. And with the family of the current President Lasso.

Villavicencio’s murder is also likely to have an impact on people’s voting behavior.

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During the election campaign, he made the security situation in the country, which had gotten out of control, an issue. A few weeks ago, Villavicencio told the broadcaster CNN: “Today, Ecuador is ruled by Jalisco Nueva Generación, the Sinaloa cartel and also by the Albanian mafia.” Drug trafficking would not be able to establish itself in society without the toleration of political power and to subjugate them.

The politician spoke openly about the influence of drug trafficking and the mafia, condemned mining and oil production. On August 20, in addition to the general elections, the population will vote in a referendum on whether oil production in the Ecuadorian Amazon should be stopped. In polls before the elections, Villavicencio sometimes came second, sometimes further down.

How will things continue in Ecuador in the future?

It is unclear what will happen after his violent death. President Lasso promised to hold those responsible accountable. Hardly anyone takes the failed head of government seriously anymore. Villavicencio’s murder is also likely to have an impact on people’s voting behavior.

In Latin America, politicians who stand for tough law-and-order policies, such as President Nayib Bukele in El Salvador, have recently regained approval.

70,000 suspected gang members arrested, among whom several thousand innocent people are suspected.

Critics lament the abolition of the democratic rule of law, but according to his high approval ratings, the population seems to support his policies.

Lasso ordered three days of national mourning in Ecuador on Thursday. The head of the electoral authority has meanwhile made it clear: the elections will take place on August 20th. Now with one less candidate.


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