Updated Aug 10, 2023, 2:37pm EDT
securitySouth America

An assassination highlights Ecuador’s descent into political chaos

Fernando Villavicencio
REUTERS/Karen Toro

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The News

The assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio at a campaign event on Wednesday underscored the extent to which the country has succumbed to political violence and organized crime.

Officials said the first round of votes in the presidential election will go ahead as planned in 10 days, but President Guillermo Lasso has declared a state of emergency for two months and ordered the immediate mobilization of armed forces across the country.

We’ve gathered reporting and analysis detailing Ecuador’s destabilization and what the assassination means for the upcoming elections.

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  • “This is terrorism,” said a witness of the attack. Murder rates in Ecuador have doubled between 2020 and 2022, and a poll this year found that more than half of Ecuadorians believe that fixing the country’s insecurity is the most important political issue. ”[This killing] leaves a clear message that here life is worth nothing,” the witness said. — The Guardian
  • A jailed gang leader allegedly threatened Villavicencio days before his assassination. The candidate had told his supporters that the head of the Choneros gang, ”Fito,” had warned him to stop referring to him during his campaign that was centered on fighting violence. Villavicencio previously called Ecuador a “failed state.
  • Ecuador’s gangs are fueling Europe’s drug trade. Dutch authorities on Thursday announcing they had seized a record-breaking 8,000 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a container of bananas from Ecuador. Nestled between Peru and Colombia — the world’s largest producers of cocaine — gangs in recent years have violently clashed over control of Ecuador’s ports to help with shipments, and they are helped by international groups like the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico. — The Associated Press
  • Villavicencio’s assassination won’t help far-left candidates, said AllianceBernstein economist Katrina Butt, given that the most leftist candidates’ policies had little overlap with Villavicencio’s. As an economic crisis looms over the country, with social unrest over the killing, she believes voters will be more drawn to either center-right candidate Otto Sonnenholzner’s proposals or millionaire Jan Topic’s security strategies. — Bloomberg