Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso fired the head of the prison service and ordered the transfer of six surviving suspects in the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio after seven others were slain.
(Bloomberg) — Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso fired the head of the prison service and ordered the transfer of six surviving suspects in the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio after seven others were slain.
The killings at prisons in Guayaquil and Quito highlighted the power of organized crime that has made the nation one of the world’s most violent and will deepen the mystery over who ordered the death of Villavicencio.
Lasso cut short a trip to Korea to host an emergency government security meeting and organize the government’s response. He replaced the head of the prison service with retired Colonel Fausto Cobo, also the head of the domestic intelligence service, the prison service said after the meeting.
The police high command will also be reshuffled. The warden of Guayaquil’s No. 1 prison, where six of the suspects were murdered, has been detained. All seven dead were Colombians, the prison service said.
Villavicencio, an anti-corruption campaigner, was gunned down on Aug. 9, two weeks ahead of the first round of the presidential election after he pledged to get tough on cocaine-smuggling mafias. His assassination came amid a surge in bloodshed that has made the country more violent than Mexico and Colombia.
Apart from the seven jailed suspects, the man who pulled the trigger, also a Colombian, was shot by a policeman during the Aug. 9 assassination and later died of his wounds while in custody.
Read more: What a Candidate’s Assassination Means for Ecuador: QuickTake
The runoff vote between businessman Daniel Noboa and socialist candidate Luisa Gonzalez takes place on Oct. 15. The campaign has been dominated by debate over how to deal with soaring drug violence.
“How could we permit the empowering of violence that has the whole country country submerged in terror and uncertainty” Noboa said in a statement on the prison murders.
“Those who could have spoken and said who killed Fernando Villavicencio are dead, and they died under the ‘control’ of the state,” Gonzalez said.
More than 400 people have died in riots in Ecuador’s prisons since 2020.
(Updates with decisions from emergency security meeting)
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