Ecuador security officials held an emergency meeting after six men accused of assassinating Ecuadorean presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio were murdered in prison.
(Bloomberg) — Ecuador security officials held an emergency meeting after six men accused of assassinating Ecuadorean presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio were murdered in prison.
The massacre at a prison in Guayaquil highlight the growing 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.
President Guillermo Lasso cut short a trip to Korea to host the security council and organize the government’s response. All the dead were Colombians, according to Ecuador’s prison service.
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 killing came amid a surge in bloodshed that has made the country more violent than Mexico and Colombia.
Apart from the six in prison, 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 is taking place on Oct. 15. The campaign has been dominated by debate over how to deal with the soaring drug violence that has led Ecuador’s homicide rate to overtake those of Colombia and Mexico.
“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.
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