Ecuador Mayor Says Gunmen Tried to Kill Him Ahead of Vote

Shots were fired at a car carrying an Ecuador mayor, another incident of violence in the country ahead of Sunday’s presidential vote.

(Bloomberg) — Shots were fired at a car carrying an Ecuador mayor, another incident of violence in the country ahead of Sunday’s presidential vote.

Police officers fired at a vehicle transporting Francisco Tamariz, the mayor of the coastal city of La Libertad, during a prolonged standoff with the politician’s motorcade, a police commander said. 

Tamariz described the incident on social media as an attempted assassination and said gunmen — some dressed as police, others in civilian clothes — fired 30 shots at his vehicle on Friday evening. Tamariz, his wife and two other people with them escaped unharmed since the vehicle was armored, he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

“It was not a coincidence, the shots were directed at where I was,” Tamariz said, adding that they aimed at his head. “I publicly summon President Guillermo Lasso, the Ministry of the Interior, I hold them directly responsible for my life.”

A police commander confirmed that officers shot at a group of three vehicles that included Tamariz’s, saying they ignored warnings, evaded a “fully identified” police checkpoint and didn’t cooperate. That led to a pursuit that lasted over an hour, said the zone’s police commander, Juan Carlos Soria, in a press conference Saturday. Police officers “used their firearms when they saw their lives and physical integrity were in danger,” Soria said, and he described the vehicles as “suspicious,” because they had polarized glasses, no plates and were going at high speed. 

Three men traveling in a different vehicle than Tamariz’s, but possibly part of his entourage, were arrested for carrying firearms without permission, Soria said. Tamariz had rejected police security before, saying he had his own, he added.

On Saturday, presidential candidate Otto Sonnenholzner said on X that there had been another shooting in front of a restaurant in Guayaquil where he was with his family. They were not harmed, Sonnenholzner said. An investigation is being conducted, his campaign spokesman told Bloomberg News.

Ecuador will hold presidential elections Sunday, triggered by Lasso’s decision to dissolve the congress and avoid impeachment. A second round will be held in October if no candidate gets an absolute majority Sunday — or at least 40% of valid votes with a 10 percentage point lead over the runner-up. 

Read more: Bond Traders Bet Next Ecuador President Can Stave Off Default

The campaign has been marred by violence, including the killing of Fernando Villavicencio, an anti-graft crusader who had been seen as one of the candidates with the best odds of advancing in the presidential race. Villavicencio was gunned down as he left a political rally.

His murder marked a defining moment in Ecuador’s rapidly deteriorating security situation. Last year, the country’s murder rate topped both Mexico and Colombia as cocaine cartels fought for control of shipping routes. The winner of the election faces an imposing challenge in restoring order in Ecuador. 

Read more: Vote for a Dead Man, Slain Candidate’s Best Friend Urges Ecuador

–With assistance from Stephan Kueffner.

(Adds police comments in grafs 2, 4-5)

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